Christmas will have a little extra jingle this year for 21 clients of three attorneys who have died or quit practicing law.
The clients received just over $100,000 among them from the Oklahoma Bar Association's Clients' Security Fund.
The fund, created in 1965, is a last resort for clients who cannot recover money from insurance, a bonding company or the involved attorneys, said association President Jim Stuart.
“Clients depend on us, and we take the issue of lawyer trust very seriously,” Stuart said. “This group of former attorneys who have violated that trust make up a very small percentage of lawyers.
“They are no longer practicing law, and we are happy to assist those who've been victimized by dishonesty.”
Sharon Peelor was involved in a three-vehicle collision Oct. 29, 2010, in Norman. She was hospitalized for eight days and hired Noble attorney Dane Wilson to help settle the case and pay medical bills not covered by health insurance.
Wilson did not make any payments to medical providers from the $41,500 provided by insurance checks.
He has since surrendered his law license.
Peelor's car also was totaled and she lost two months of income after the crash.
“We lost so much money because of the situation with Mr. Wilson,” Peelor said. “He was a personal acquaintance. I knew him through church, and other social interactions, so it was like being betrayed by a friend.”
She applied in January 2012 when she could no longer reach Wilson.
The association reimbursed Peelor nearly $24,000.
“I had no idea that they did this sort of thing for people who have been betrayed by their lawyers,” Peelor said. “It's commendable for them to try to help people who have been hurt like this. Coming at this particular moment, it made Christmas a lot more pleasurable.”
All practicing Oklahoma lawyers give to the fund.