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Louisiana Lawyer Faces Legal Malpractice Suit Over Botched BP Claim

Deadlines for filing a claim are critical with legal malpractice claims. 

Fisherman suing Metairie lawyer, firm over botched BP claim.

February 06, 2014. By Jennifer Larino, | The Times-Picayune

A Metairie attorney and law office are being sued by a client who says the firm mishandled his claim against BP for damages after the 2010 oil spill, causing him to miss out on more than $100,000 in payments for his commercial fishing business.

In the suit, first reported by The Louisiana Record, plaintiff Richard J. Mock said attorney Joseph Douglas Sunseri and his Metairie-based firm, Nicaud & Sunseri, failed to properly file his claim in early 2013. Mock claimed that forced him to miss the deadline to file for damages under the Seafood Compensation Claims fund set up by BP to handle claims with local fishermen.

Mock filed suit in the 24th Judicial District Court against Sunseri, his law firm and their insurer on Jan. 20. The case is assigned to Division E. Judge John J. Molaison Jr.

Jacques F. Bezou Jr., the Covington attorney representing Mock, told | The Times-Picayune the case is straightforward.

Bezou said Mock looked to Sunseri and his firm to help him file his claim he qualified for. The claim was never filed nor was Mock informed the deadline for filing was looming, he said.

"It's a shame because these deadlines were pretty cut and dry. They were there for people to look at if they wanted," Bezou said. "It's a simple cut-and-dry case in my opinion."

But Sunseri said Mock never signed a contract retaining the legal services of himself or Nicaud & Sunseri. Sunseri said his firms received dozens of requests for information regarding BP claims in the wake of the spill, but did not file claims on behalf of clients until a formal contract is signed.

"We never came to an agreement. We never signed a contract...," Sunseri said. "You can call a doctor on the phone saying I want you to treat me, but if you don't go into their office you don't get treated."

Mock, who runs a crab fishing company in Terrebonne Parish and owns two fishing vessels, first approached Sunseri and his firm in October 2012 about representing him in a claim against BP related to damages his business suffered during the oil spill.

Mock said he interacted with the firm via email from November 2012 to January 2013, sending proof of income and other appropriate paperwork to determine his eligibility under the Seafood Compensation Claims fund. Mock said he took the interactions to mean Sunseri was acting as his counsel.

Mock said Nicaud & Sunseri notified him on Dec. 14, 2012 he was automatically eligible for a settlement claim. He said he received another email on Jan. 3, 2013 saying that his claim had passed the causality test for a settlement, but when he tried to contact the firm via phone he could not get through.

Mock said he was still unable to contact anyone with the firm a day after the Jan. 22, 2013 deadline for filing claims. Mock filed a second claim on his own on Jan. 24.

After months of waiting, Mock said he was told in September 2013 both the claim he filed on his own and the claim handled by Sunseri were denied because they were filed after the deadline.

Mock has accused Sunseri and his firm of legal malpractice for failing to notify him of the deadline or of any complications related to his claims. Bezou said Mock is seeking more than $100,000 in damages.


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