Louisiana Record

Friday, January 24, 2020

Baton Rouge attorney disbarred following allegations in slip-and-fall case


By Karen Kidd | Nov 11, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — Baton Rouge attorney Michael Treaman Bell has been disbarred following a Nov. 5 Louisiana Supreme Court attorney disciplinary proceeding after allegedly settling a slip-and-fall case without the client's authorization or knowledge.

"Considering that (Bell) has also failed to cooperate with the office of disciplinary counsel in its investigation, we agree that disbarment is the appropriate sanction in this case," the Supreme Court said in its disciplinary proceeding.

In its 9-page disciplinary proceeding, the Supreme Court also ordered Bell to pay restitution to his client and the chiropractor who treated her, in addition to all costs and expenses in the matter.

Bell was alleged to have violated professional conduct rules, including those regarding diligence, communication, charging unreasonable fees, interest on client loans, authorization to settle and endorse, safekeeping of client property and criminal acts.

The Supreme Court's disciplinary proceeding follows a recommendation by a Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) hearing committee last summer that Bell be disbarred.

Bell was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on Dec. 6, 2001, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website.

In September 2015, Bell was hired by his client to represent her in claims against a department store for injuries she suffered in a slip-and-fall accident, according to the background portion of the disciplinary proceeding.

Over the following two years, the client had difficulty communicating with Bell about her case and in November 2017 hired another attorney who found out the case had settled in June 2016. The client had been unaware of the settlement and the signature signed to the back of the check had not been hers.

The client filed her complaint with the Office ofDisciplinary Counsel (ODC) the following December.

"The record in this deemed admitted matter supports a finding that [Bell] settled a case without client authorization, charged interest on money that he loaned to a client, converted client funds, failed to cooperate with the ODC in an investigation, and provided false statements to the ODC," the disciplinary proceeding said.

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Louisiana State Bar AssociationLouisiana Supreme Court

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