Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Association

436 U.S. 447 (1978)


D was a member of the Ohio bar and learned about the postmaster's brother being in an auto accident in which a young woman had been injured. D made a phone call to the parents of the woman who informed D that she was in the hospital D then suggested a visit to the hospital but that first D stop by their home. D did so, and the parents explained that they were driving and had been hit by an uninsured motorist. In response to the apprehension that they might be sued, D put those fears to rest by explaining the guest statutes. D then suggested that they hire a lawyer and the mother said that was up to her daughter as she was 18. D then proceeded to the hospital where he found Carol, the daughter lying in traction. D then solicited her for representation and asked her to sign an agreement. Carol asked to discuss the matter with her parents and did not sign the agreement. D also tried to see another person involved in the accident, but she had just been released from the hospital. On his way back to see the parents, D went and took photos of the accident scene and also picked up a tape recorder which he concealed in his coat when he went back to the parents' home. D then reexamined their auto policy and discussed the law with them and explained the consequences of the fact that the driver who hit their car was uninsured. D also discovered that their insurance policy would provide $12,500 for each Carol and the other injured party under an uninsured motorist clause. Two days later Carol signed the agreement for D to represent her and for him to get 1/3rd of her recovery. D also got the other victim's name and address from the parents. D then visited Wanda without having been invited and concealed his tape recorder. D informed her that the insurance policy could pay her up to $12,500. Wanda was still in high school but verbally agreed to allow D to represent her for 1/3rd the recovery. The next day Wanda's mother called to repudiate her daughter's oral assent and that her daughter did not want to sue anyone. Wanda confirmed in writing one month later that she did not want to sue anyone nor to be represented by D. D was told to inform the insurance company of these developments. Carol also eventually discharged D, but Carol paid the 1/3rd for settlement of a breach of contract claim. Both Carol and Wanda filed complaints against D. D was found in violation of 2-103(A) and 2-104(A) and was issued public reprimand. The Supreme Court of Ohio agreed but increased the punishment to indefinite suspension.