SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 14, 2013

Swampscott lawyer scolded over mishandling of case

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SWAMPSCOTT — A well-known Swampscott land-use attorney has been reprimanded by the state Board of Bar Overseers after mishandling an elderly woman’s personal injury case, the agency announced last week.

William DiMento, who specialized in zoning, planning and other land cases, was hired in 2007 by a woman who had been struck and injured by a car in a parking lot. DiMento had no background in personal injury law, the BBO noted, but had represented the woman in land-use cases.

He filed a lawsuit on the woman’s behalf, and then engaged in settlement discussions with the driver’s insurance company.

DiMento eventually reached a settlement for $150,000 with the insurance company. But, apparently in the mistaken belief that Medicare would be given most of the money because the program had paid some of the woman’s medical bills, he never sought an accounting from the program. Instead, he told the insurance company that he was trying to negotiate a settlement with Medicare first.

Meanwhile, the woman died in 2009. Her daughter, the administrator of her estate, repeatedly asked about the settlement and was told by DiMento that he was working on resolving the Medicare lien.

In fact, the BBO later concluded, DiMento “did not know how to settle the lien and took no meaningful steps toward resolution during this period.”

The BBO noted that DiMento made a few calls to Medicare in 2011 and 2012, but made no progress to resolve the lien.

In December, the woman’s daughter hired an experienced personal injury attorney who settled the Medicare lien for $3,688. The insurance company finally sent the balance of the settlement, $146,311.

DiMento offered to accept a reduced fee of 20 percent, and the woman’s daughter eventually received $115,000.

The BBO found that DiMento had violated the professional rules of conduct governing lawyers, including a requirement that lawyers accept only those cases they are competent to handle.

DiMento did not respond to an email requesting comment yesterday afternoon.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.