Loudoun County Circuit Judge Thomas Horne will allow a plaintiff to pursue his auto accident case despite the earlier “settlement” of the claim by a dishonest lawyer acting without the client’s authority.
Woodbridge lawyer Stephen Conrad, now disbarred and imprisoned, settled hundreds of claims without authority, usually pocketing the proceeds. A string of decisions held the settlements were binding on the hapless plaintiffs because Conrad had “apparent authority” to negotiate the deals with insurance companies.
There now are two decisions, at least, going the other way. Citing a 1926 decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Horne held last month that apparent authority requires the client do something more than just hire the lawyer. His opinion is in line with an April decision from Prince William County Circuit Judge William Hamblen.
The decision revives a Loudoun County personal injury case based on a 2004 accident. Conrad had “settled” the claim in 2006 for $18,000.
By Peter Vieth