Wyoming Supreme Court Censures Lawyer in Defamation Suit

By BEN NEARY | October 31, 2014

The Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday censured a Cody lawyer who represented a surgeon in a defamation lawsuit filed by another doctor.

The court ruled lawyer Laurence Stinson violated a professional rule prohibiting lawyers from making court filings without a good-faith basis and making filings intended only to embarrass the other party in litigation. It ordered him to pay over $15,000 to cover disciplinary proceedings.

Stinson’s office said he was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Stinson had represented Dr. John H. Schneider, a neurosurgeon who practiced in Cody. The Wyoming Board of Medicine revoked Schneider’s license early this year.

Dr. Jimmie Biles of Cody sued Schneider in 2011 contending he was behind anonymous fliers disparaging Biles’ medical practice. Biles also had sued Lisa Fallon, of Indiana, alleging she had distributed the fliers.

According to Biles’ lawsuits, the flier was sent in 2010 to more than 14,000 residents of north-central Wyoming. The lawsuits alleged that Schneider hoped the mailing would result in his getting more neurosurgical patients. Schneider had denied he was behind the mailings.

The Supreme Court ruling states the following:

  • Fallon had told Biles’ lawyers that Schneider had given her money to produce the fliers and provided her with a mailing list.
  • While the lawsuit was pending, workers at West Park Hospital in Cody discovered a computer flash drive in the hospital laundry. It showed communications between Schneider and Fallon in which he encouraged her not to talk to Biles’ lawyers.
  • Stinson was aware that Schneider had written the flash-drive communications to Fallon when Stinson wrote Schneider’s response to Biles’ complaint. In the response, Stinson alleged that Biles knew his allegations against Schneider were false because Fallon had said she alone was responsible for the fliers. The response then listed “affirmative defenses” disparaging Biles personally and professionally.
  • Biles’ lawyers found an email-exchange between Schneider and Fallon showing he encouraged her to say she was too sick to testify to Biles’ lawyers at a deposition and promising her a “a 250K-plus payoff.” Soon after that discovery, Schneider entered a confidential settlement with Biles, ending the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday says Stinson has contested the conclusions by the Wyoming State Bar that he had violated professional standards. Stinson maintained that he had an obligation to his client to mount a vigorous defense to Biles’ lawsuit.

Schneider’s settlement of the Biles’ lawsuit remains an issue in an ongoing civil case in U.S. District Court in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Board of Medicine early this year revoked Schneider’s license following an investigation into his involvement in treating Russell Monaco, 47, of Billings, Montana. Monaco died from an overdose of painkillers the day after his release from West Park Hospital in late 2011.

Monaco’s relatives filed a federal lawsuit last year claiming negligence by the hospital and medical personnel, including Schneider. Lawyers for Monaco now are seeking details of the settlement between Schneider, his corporate interests and Biles.

In July, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper signed an order denying a request from Schneider for a protective order to prevent Monaco’s lawyers from pursuing information about whether Schneider moved money around after Monaco’s death to attempt to shield it from creditors.

Skavdahl stated in his ruling that Monaco’s lawyers allege that after Monaco’s death, Schneider borrowed $3 million from a limited family partnership, submitted a claim for indemnification from an insurance company he owned and then paid the claim, leaving the insurance company insolvent.

Casper lawyer Stephenson Emery represents Schneider in the Monaco suit and filed another brief earlier this month asking for a protective order to keep Schneider’s financial records secret. “The fraudulent transfer alleged is the Biles lawsuit settlement,” he wrote. “The settlement is confidential.”

An attempt to reach Emery for comment on Wednesday was unsuccessful.

Lawyer Jon Moyers of Billings, Montana, represents the Monaco family. He declined comment on the case Wednesday.

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