In the Matter of Bennett Joseph Schiller, III, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2017-001645
Submitted October 24, 2017
M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Julie K. Martino,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office
of Disciplinary Counsel.
A. Pendarvis, of Pendarvis Law Offices, PC, of Beaufort, for
attorney disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of
Disciplinary Counsel have entered into an Agreement for
Discipline by Consent (Agreement) pursuant to Rule 21 of the
Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) contained in
Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR).
In the Agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents
to a public reprimand. We accept the Agreement and issue a
public reprimand. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement,
are as follows.
was retained by Client, a North Carolina resident, to
represent him with regards to a motor vehicle accident that
occurred in North Carolina. Co-counsel subsequently
associated respondent on the case. Neither co-counsel nor
respondent were admitted to practice law in North Carolina.
signed two fee agreements. The first agreement was a fee
agreement stating the attorneys' fee was 33% of any
recovery and that if there was no recovery, Client would be
responsible for "all actual expenses." The
agreement did not specify whether the attorneys' fee
would be calculated before or after litigation and other
expenses were deducted. Although respondent asserted he and
his co-counsel explained to Client how funds would be
distributed under the agreement, respondent admits that the
failure to document in writing whether litigation and other
expenses are to be deducted before or after a contingent fee
is calculated is a violation of Rule 1.5(c) of the North
Carolina Revised Rules of Professional Conduct. 
recovering the policy limit of $30, 000 from the at-fault
driver's insurance carrier, respondent and co-counsel
pursued recovery under Client's underinsured motorist
(UIM) policy. That carrier tendered $220, 000 to respondent
and co-counsel, which represented the policy limit of $250,
000 minus a set-off of $30, 000 based on the payment by the
at-fault driver's carrier.
refused to accept the funds due to a disagreement over the
disbursement statement, specifically, the disbursement of
attorneys' fees. Client informed respondent and
co-counsel he was terminating the "fee contract, "
as he believed the fees were unreasonable and he did not
understand there were other fee agreement options. Client
also stated he did not understand from the fee agreement that
respondent and co-counsel could place a lien on the insurance
proceeds for the amount of the attorneys' fees owed.
respondent sent letters to Client's UIM carrier informing
the carrier that he and co-counsel had a lien on the $220,
000 for their one-third contingency fee. In one of the
letters, respondent directed the carrier not to discuss the
matter with Client or Client's brother without the
consent of respondent or co-counsel.
Client left a voice message with the carrier notifying the
carrier that he had terminated respondent and co-counsel.
Client also sent a letter to respondent and co-counsel asking
them to notify the carrier that they were no longer
carrier sent a letter to respondent informing him Client had
notified the carrier that he had discharged respondent and
co-counsel. The carrier requested respondent contact Client
about the outstanding claim. Three weeks later, and over a
month after Client requested such action, respondent and
co-counsel notified the carrier they were no longer
representing Client and returned the insurance proceeds to
alleged respondent and co-counsel failed to withdraw as
counsel after he terminated the fee agreement and that they
failed to inform the UIM carrier they were no longer
representing Client after he requested they do so. Respondent
admits his failure to withdraw from representation after
multiple communications from Client requesting respondent and