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Claimed Memory Loss from Airbag Deployment Leads to Suspension of Attorney's Law License

This is the story of how an airbag led to attorney Eric Forstrom's law license being suspended in two states, according to a Supreme Court of Wisconsin opinion (via the Legal Profession Blog) that lays out Forstrom's account of what happened:

The opinion states that on March 23, 2008, Forstrom, an attorney admitted to practice in Wisconsin and California, was driving his car and collided with another car. Both vehicles were damaged. Forstrom remained at the accident scene for a few minutes and then walked away, leaving the scene and abandoning his car. The next day, Forstrom went to a police station and reported that his car had been stolen. Later that day, Forstrom reported to his insurance company that his car had been stolen and a claim was initiated.

The police investigated the accident and identified Forstrom as the owner of the car involved in the hit-and-run accident. On May 30, 2008, a lawyer for Forstrom wrote to the insurance company to say that Forstrom was withdrawing his theft claim and would hold the insurance company harmless. It is unclear exactly how things went down from there, but on April 28, 2009, Forstrom entered an "initial guilty plea" to insurance fraud, a felony involving moral turpitude. On Dec. 8, 2009, the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and Forstrom entered a final plea (this misdemeanor charge was ultimately dismissed/expunged earlier this year).

Following the final guilty plea, the Supreme Court of California suspended Forstrom's license to practice law for two years (but stayed the execution of the suspension such that he was placed on probation for two years with his license suspended for only the first year of the probation). This week, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin also suspended Forstrom's license to practice law for one year, but noted in its opinion that Forstrom had presented some new information during the Wisconsin proceedings.

Specifically, Forstrom maintains that the whole "insurance fraud" mess resulted from the fact that during the auto accident, he "suffered a concussion/brain trauma caused by airbag deployment" that caused him to temporarily have no recollection of the accident. Thus, he "did not recall being involved in an auto accident at the time he initiated the insurance claim that led to his conviction." In the weeks following the accident, however, Forstrom's memory resurfaced, leading him to formally withdraw his insurance claim.

It is unclear to me what the "lesson learned" is when your car's airbag supposedly ends up getting you suspended from the practice of law in two states. Always drive with a friend so that you won't erroneously think your car was stolen? Disable your airbags? Please weigh in if you have the answer.

Posted by Bruce Carton on September 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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