Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Contrite Burlington County lawyer willing to accept discipline for neglecting his client's case.

In May 2016, state attorney disciplinary authorities charged a Mount Laurel attorney with failing to advise his clients that a nursing home negligence lawsuit he had filed on their behalf had been dismissed and then misrepresenting the status of the case to both his clients and the ethics investigator.

According to the complaint, Saul G. Gruber, who chairs the Javerbaum Wurgaft Nursing Home Group, filed the negligence suit in 2009 on behalf of a man and his mother.  The suit, however, was reportedly dismissed on April 18, 2011 after the nursing home filed a "summary judgment motion that went unopposed by" Gruber.  In 2014, the clients filed their first ethics grievance against Gruber after he failed to return several calls they had left asking for the status of their lawsuit.

After Gruber received the ethics grievance, he called his clients and explained that his failure to respond to them was due to him changing law offices.  According to the complaint, when Gruber met with his clients on April 14, 2014, he falsely told them that the negligence case was still on-going and would be settled for $50,000 in the next few weeks.

In May of 2015, after not having heard anything further, the clients call Gruber "about a dozen times" but did not receive a return call.  The clients filed their second grievance against Gruber on July 14, 2015. 

Ethics presenter (prosecutor) Michael J. Wietrzychowski of Cherry Hill said that he received false information from Gruber the first time he interviewed him on November 23, 2015.  In a second interview held on January 13, 2016,  Wietrzychowski said that Gruber admitted that he "panicked" and lied during the first interview.

In his formal response to the ethics complaint, Gruber said that his behavior was aberrant and was caused by "a difficult separation and upcoming divorce from his wife which led to stupid and panicky decisions" that were "confined to this particular case."  He also attributed his behavior to his involvement in a "partnership with Samuel Merovitz and David Cedar (which has since been disbanded) which was fraught with contention and lack of success."  In what he called a "stupid business mistake," the new partnership allegedly sunk him into debt which put him under "great mental strain" that led to discord in his marriage.

In an expression of contrition, Gruber told ethics authorities that he "will accept discipline for [his] actions as they were inexcusable."  He said he wanted a hearing "to lay out the issues in a more cogent fashion in an effort to explain the issues but more importantly allow the Ethics Committee to understand that his can and will never happen again."

Both the complaint and Gruber's answer in District IIIB Ethics Committee v. Saul Gruber, Esq., Docket No. IIIB-2015-0040E are online at the link above.

In ethics matters, the burden is on the disciplinary system to prove its case.  At this point, the charges are merely allegations--nothing has been proven.

Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public.  Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on this matter may complete and send a hearing request form to the District IIIB Ethics Committee in care of Secretary Cynthia S. Earl via fax to 856-642-7471.