After his father died in a nursing home operated by Healthsouth Corp., Howard Wright sued the company for medical malpractice and in January 2011 agreed to a $225,000 settlement. A good chunk of that, 36 percent, went to his lawyer, Tom Corea, and another $20,000 went to pay off a pair of liens, but that still left Wright with $124,000.
Wright, like quite a few of Corea's clients, never saw a dime. When Wright demanded his money, Corea balked, claiming that the agreement had been for a 40 percent cut. Then, Corea claimed he had to renegotiate the agreement to pay off the Medicare lien, which went on for several months until Wright discovered that the settlement money was nowhere to be found. Wright filed a lawsuit alleging Corea had taken the money and spent it on himself, his wife, and Whistlestop Enterprises, the family's quarter horse operation.
He also filed a complaint with the Texas State Bar alleging professional misconduct. That complaint worked its way through the attorney disciplinary process until an evidentiary panel determined earlier this month that Corea had failed to give Wright his settlement funds and had engaged in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."
The State Bar fined Corea $4,642.64 and, more important, determined he should no longer be allowed to practice law. The disbarment was signed on October 15, but is not final, said State Bar spokeswoman Kim Bueno. Corea has a pending motion for a new trial, and the judgment is subject to appeal. You can read the decision here.