Former Attorneys Deny Allegations of Misconduct
In a recent court hearing, two former lawyers from the same firm as Alex Murdaugh vigorously denied allegations of conspiring with their former colleague to embezzle settlement funds from a client involved in a vehicular accident. The intense hour-long session took place on December 1, with Glenn Walters representing Manuel Santis-Cristiani, a former client of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, Detrick (PMPED). The presiding judge was Bentley Price.
A Spirited Defense
During the hearing, Wallace Lightsey, representing Ronnie Crosby and William Barnes III, as well as PMPED, engaged in a heated exchange with Glenn Walters. Lightsey made it clear that he was not representing Murdaugh in the proceedings. Crosby, Barnes, and Murdaugh had been the attorneys responsible for handling Santis-Cristiani’s personal injury case following a rollover accident in Colleton County in 2008.
Client Speaks, Firm Responds
Santis-Cristiani, a Mexican national, was present in the courtroom but chose not to make any comments. PMPED filed a lawsuit on Santis-Cristiani’s behalf in 2011 against Ford Motor Co. and Michelin North America. The case was settled in 2013, resulting in Santis-Cristiani receiving approximately $74,000 from the total settlement. However, Walters and Korey Williams, two attorneys, filed a lawsuit claiming that PMPED failed to disclose the full amount awarded to their client and neglected to remit the payment.
Wallace Lightsey raised objections to the validity of the allegations of misconduct made against Crosby and Barnes. He accused Walters and Williams of defamatory actions, emphasizing that their claims were made without proper investigation or a good-faith effort to review the client file provided. Lightsey asserted that a thorough assessment of Santis-Cristiani’s PMPED case file would have revealed the baseless nature of the lawsuit.
The attorneys representing PMPED submitted a copy of a wire transfer as evidence in court, demonstrating that the settlement funds were indeed transferred to Santis-Cristiani in 2016. Lightsey stressed that this document, along with other records, was offered to Walters, provided he obtained written permission from Santis-Cristiani as required by professional conduct standards. Unfortunately, Walters failed to provide the necessary authorization.
The Significance of Signatures
One point of contention centered on the disbursement sheet found in Santis-Cristiani’s file. Walters questioned the validity of the document due to the absence of signatures from the parties involved. Lightsey countered that while signatures would have been preferable, they were not legally or ethically required. In an attempt to resolve this issue, Judge Price administered an oath to Crosby, who testified to the authenticity of the document.
Walters continued to press for a detailed account of how the settlement funds were distributed. He emphasized that his only request was transparency and an accurate financial record of the case. However, he expressed frustration at not being permitted to conduct discovery or receive the accounting he sought. Judge Price intervened, reminding Walters that challenging the court’s process was not productive.
Firm Takes Responsibility
While the misconduct allegations involving Crosby and Barnes were refuted, PMPED did acknowledge that Alex Murdaugh had misappropriated $70,000 from the settlement, intended to cover Santis-Cristiani’s outstanding medical bills. The stolen funds were only discovered by the firm last year, prompting them to notify law enforcement promptly. The Medical University of South Carolina claimed the $70,000 for Santis-Cristiani’s unpaid medical expenses.
Meeting Their Obligations
To rectify the situation, PMPED offered to pay the hospital the money owed from the settlement. Judge Price is expected to deliver a ruling soon, providing closure and resolution to the case. Alex Murdaugh, currently held at Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on a $7 million bond, awaits trial in January on charges related to embezzlement, as well as the alleged murders of his wife and son in June 2021.
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(Note: The images from the original article have been incorporated appropriately into the new article.)