On Sunday, November 15, 2020, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Arizona Supreme Court ruled on charges of attorney discipline against Casa Grande attorney Terry R. Sutton for misconduct. The case is entitled “In the matter of Terry R. Sutton”. Case #2022-9083.
The charges cited rules of professional conduct Rule 42, ERs 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.7, 1.15, and 8.4(d).
The rules of professional conduct can be found here.
The following are as alleged and summarized from the filing:
Respondent conditionally admits that his conduct violated the above-stated rules. On October 5, 2017, the Respondent’s conduct violated his duty to the client and the legal system. It all started when the Respondent’s client (Plaintiff) was struck by Defendant’s vehicle. Respondent made a bodily injury claim under Defendant’s $15,000 Progressive policy. Around the same time, Respondent also made an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim under Plaintiff’s State Farm policy. After some period, the team manager escalated the claim to a section manager for authority to approve the policy limits of $250,000. Unfortunately, the plaintiff died. Unaware of Plaintiff’s death, StateFarm mailed its check for Plaintiff’s $250,000 UIM policy limit to the respondent. State Farm named Medicare as a payee on the $250,000 payment and reported the settlement to Medicare. On April 10, 2018, Respondent paid himself $83,250 (1/3) of the the$250,000 State Farm payment, leaving $181,755 in his trust account. He did not communicate to Medicare regarding the receipt of the check or his decision to pay himself.
The order states:
‘In responding to the Bar, Respondent indicated: “From and after my telephonic conversation with the State Farm agent [shortly after January 24, 2018), I fully believed the matter had been settled and that my client would receive a check for $250,000. Therefore, after I learned Mr. Sannar died, I did not believe I had any obligation to deal further with State Farm. I did not know the cause of death on February 15, 2018, when Ms. Sannar informed me her father had died. I did have some degree of concern, based on anecdotal comments and information from colleagues, that because we had agreed to settle for the full amount of coverage for *Bodily Injury Limits” and not for wrongful death, State Farm “might” have some mechanism to “pull back” the funds. I was also concerned that if he had died of causes other than those related to the accident, the whole claim, whether for personal injury or wrongful death, might disappear.”
The order further states:
“In responding to the bar charge, Respondent wrote: “it has been my experience in cases where Medicare has or may have a claim, that CMS does not *sign off on settlement check deposits, and the banks routinely deposit settlement checks to attorney Trust Accounts without anyone from CMS signing. The responsibility to take care of CMS liens becomes my responsibility for the clients.”
On October 20, 2022, an Agreement for Discipline by consent was issued by the Presiding Judge. It states that the parties conditionally agree that upon application of the aggravating and mitigating factors a presumptive sanction is appropriate and will serve the purposes of lawyer discipline. The State Bar and Respondent believe that the objectives of discipline will be met by the imposition of the proposed sanction of Reprimand with Probation and the imposition of costs and expenses. Hence, a Final Judgement and Order were issued on November 15, 2022.
The Disposition states:
“It is ORDERED that Terry R. Sutton, Bar No.022295, is reprimanded for his conduct in violation of the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct.”
As of today, Mr. Sutton is listed on the website of the law firm Sutton Law, P.C. as a practicing attorney. His info can be found on casagrandelawfirm.com. He attended Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Sutton practices in Casa Grande, Arizona. He has been licensed in Arizona.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.