Archive for the ‘Excessive charges’ Category

Court: Iowa lawyers overbilled ill Vietnam veteran

June 18, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Lawyers who billed a mentally ill Vietnam War veteran $125 per hour for “services,” such as attending his birthday parties and taking him shopping, will have their licenses suspended for 18 months, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.
 
Keota law partners Donald Laing and Scott Railsback falsely claimed too many hours for providing conservator services to John KIein over three decades and charged excessive rates for services that didn’t require legal training, the court ruled. The attorneys received $178,000 in excess fees while managing Klein’s assets — even while he complained that they didn’t give him enough money to buy cigarettes and energy drinks.
 
“They turned everything into a profit for themselves,” said Oskaloosa attorney Garold Heslinga, who exposed the excess after suing Laing and Railsback on behalf of Klein in 2008. “They charged him to go visit him on his birthday. They charged him for going to Iowa City to buy presents to give some woman. It was just ridiculous.”
 
He said the discipline should have come “a long time ago,” and now may have little impact. The pair’s former law firm has changed hands, and a secretary said Friday they’ve retired. Their phone numbers were disconnected.
 
Laing was appointed Klein’s conservator in 1974 after Klein inherited valuable farmland and property. Then 24, he did not have a legal guardian at the time. Klein, who had a history of paranoid schizophrenia, depression and substance abuse, later inherited additional land and money worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
 
The court said that Klein’s illness and volatile behavior posed significant and time-consuming challenges for Laing and Railsback, who helped relocate Klein to residential care facilities in California, Colorado and Connecticut. When Klein lived on his own, he had trouble with crime, relationships and money management.
 
Klein, now 63 and living independently in Iowa, admitted that the men were very helpful over the years, even if they were tight-fisted.
 
The court credited Laing and Railsback for assisting Klein in the absence of relatives but found the two ultimately took advantage of the relationship through indefensible charges.
 
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Court: Iowa lawyers overbilled ill Vietnam veteran
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