Bar News - December 15, 2006
NH Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee
Runge, Jeffrey A. advs. Attorney Discipline Office # 04-015
Public Censaure Summary
The New Hampshire Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee deliberated the matter of Runge, Jeffrey S. advs. Attorney Discipline Office # 04-015, and issued a Public Censure on April 5, 2006. Following a Motion for Reconsideration and oral argument, the Committee affirmed its decision on September 7, 2006.
On or about March 22, 2001, Linda St. Onge hired Jeffrey A. Runge, Esquire, to handle a medical malpractice lawsuit. The medical malpractice claim arose out of her physician’s allegedly negligent administration of a triple dose of her allergy injections. The statute of limitations was set to expire on July 18, 2003. On January 13, 2003, the defendant’s insurance adjuster wrote to Mr. Runge and confirmed that she was prepared to engage counsel to accept service, should he elect to file suit. The adjuster confirmed her willingness to accept service on January 31, 2003. The adjuster further communicated to Mr. Runge on April 14, 2003, that she would accept service of a writ of summons on behalf of her clients.
On July 15, 2003, a Tuesday, Mr. Runge was aware that the statute of limitations expired on that Friday, and that Superior Court Rule 2 provided an alternative means of service of the writ by simply filing the writ in the appropriate Court. On July 15, 2003, Mr. Runge telephoned the Sheriff’s Office and learned that timely service could be accomplished if he hand delivered the writ to the Sheriff’s Office on that date. Mr. Runge mailed the writ, and no further action was taken between July 15, 2003, and July 18, 2003. Two of the defendants received notice of the writ on July 22, 2003, and the third received notice on July 30, 2003.
On August 5, 2003, Mr. Runge filed the writ with the filing fee and returns of service at Hillsborough County Superior Court. On September 19, 2003, the defendants’ attorney filed a Motion to Dismiss, based on the statute of limitations. On September 29, 2003, Mr. Runge filed an Objection arguing accident, mistake or misfortune. Mr. Runge copied Ms. St. Onge on the Objection. On October 7, 2003, the Court granted the Motion to Dismiss. The Court’s order was forwarded to Ms. St. Onge on October 16, 2003.
Upon receipt of the Court order, Ms. St. Onge consulted a different attorney, and was informed that the deadline for filing a Motion to Reconsider had passed. Thereafter, Mr. Runge filed a Notice of Appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. By order dated December 29, 2003, the Court declined to accept Mr. Runge’s appeal.
The Committee found by clear and convincing evidence that Jeffrey A. Runge violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct: 1.3 (Diligence) and 1.4 (Client Communication) in that:
- Mr. Runge failed to timely file the writ on behalf of his client despite having every opportunity to ensure timely filing, four days in advance of the statute of limitations deadline.
- Mr. Runge did not inform the client until sometime after September 29, 2003, that her action was subject to dismissal on statute of limitation grounds, although he became aware of this fact as early as August 5, 2003.
- Mr. Runge’s client was not informed of the failure to meet the statute of limitations until he filed an Objection to the defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Mr. Runge also did not inform his client of the Court’s dismissal of her case in a timely enough manner to allow her to consider all options to protect her interests, including consulting a different attorney, within the deadline for filing a motion to reconsider.
Having found clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Runge violated the aforeseaid rules, the Committee found clear and convincing evidence of a violation of Rule 8.4(a).
Mr. Runge was issued a Public Censure, and assessed all costs associated with the investigation, prosecution, and reconsideration of this matter. The matter is public record, and available for inspection at the New Hampshire Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office, 4 Park Street, Suite 304, Concord, New Hampshire, 03301.
November 15, 2006