A Texas woman who sued a nursing home for an on-the-job injury has filed suit against the lawyer who represented her, as well as his firm, alleging attorney negligence led to her losing the case.
Among several things, plaintiff Daysi Castillo alleges that attorney Stephen Paul Carrigan failed to timely file a required expert report and that he initiated settlement negotiations without her authorization, and she alleges that neither Carrigan nor the firm ever explained to her what happened with the lawsuit.
Castillo brings a
negligence cause of action against Carrigan and Carrigan, Cook & Anderson and seeks unspecified damages and interest from Carrigan and Carrigan Cook. Plaintiffs attorney Clay Crawford, of Crawford Law Firm of Houston, said that while he cannot yet estimate Castillo’s damages, “she had hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills, and the damages in the legal mal [suit] would be related to that.”
Carrigan did not return two telephone messages left at his office or respond to an email seeking a response to the allegations. His partners in Carrigan Cook also did not immediately respond to an email each requesting a comment on the allegations in Castillo v. Carrigan, which was filed on Feb. 25 in the 125th District Court in Harris County.
In the original petition, Castillo alleges that she severely injured her back on Aug. 8, 2011, while at work at the nursing home, and she hired Tinsley & Tinsley of Conroe on Sept. 22, 2011, to represent her. She alleges that Paul Tinsley filed a lawsuit on her behalf in Montgomery County on May 14, 2012, but he referred the matter to Carrigan on July 25, 2012. On Aug. 27, 2012, Castillo alleges, County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Claudia Laird entered an order substituting Carrigan as attorney of record and set the suit for trial on Jan. 22, 2013.
Castillo alleges that on Oct. 23, 2012, Laird ordered the case abated pending arbitration, but it went to mediation May 20, 2013. She alleges that mediation was unsuccessful.
On May 28, 2013, Carrigan advised Castillo that he had established a new firm, Carrigan, Cook & Anderson, and she executed a new contract with Carrigan Cook.
On Sept. 23, 2013, Laird lifted the abatement because the arbitration had not occurred, and set the suit for trial on Dec. 16, 2013, Castillo alleges.
However, on Oct. 30, 2013, Castillo alleges, the nursing home filed a motion to “dismiss the arbitration with prejudice” because more than 120 days had passed and Castillo had not filed an expert report under Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code Section 74.351(a). She alleges that Section 74 requires a nonpatient hospital employee who is suing an employer to file an expert report.
She alleges that the statute also calls for the court to award attorney fees against a plaintiff if an expert report is not filed, and the nursing home’s lawyers sought $13,500 in fees.
She alleges that the report was due on Sept. 12, 2012, and “it is indisputable that Mr. Carrigan was the attorney in charge of the lawsuit when the deadline ran.”
Castillo further alleges that Carrigan and Carrigan Cook failed to make a trial announcement on Dec. 10, 2013, so the trial judge dismissed the case for want of prosecution.
Castillo alleges that unknown to her, shortly after the nursing home filed the motion to dismiss, “Carrigan began a settlement dialogue” with a lawyer for the nursing home, and he proposed a settlement agreement calling for the nursing home to dismiss its claim for attorney fees in exchange for Castillo dropping her claims.
“This behind-the-scenes negotiation was not authorized by Ms. Castillo. Ms. Castillo never signed the settlement agreement,” Castillo alleges in the petition.
Castillo alleges that the nursing home “finally quit” asking for signed settlement documents, “apparently satisfied that the case had been dismissed” and that the statute of limitations would prevent her from reasserting her claims.
“Mr. Carrigan and CCA were not forthcoming with a candid explanation of how Ms. Castillo’s case was lost,” she alleges in the petition.
However, this is how Castillo’s attorney, Crawford, sees it: “It’s a pretty simple case. You have a Chapter 74 deadline. It’s a hard deadline, and he missed it.”
As a result of a State Bar of Texas disciplinary action, Carrigan is currently serving a partially probated suspension after a grievance committee evidentiary panel found that
he committed “professional misconduct” in a case unrelated to Castillo’s. According to the bar’s online membership records, Carrigan’s license was suspended from Nov. 20, 2014, through Feb. 19, and his probation will end on Nov. 19, 2016.
Originally posted by Brenda Sapino Jeffreys on texaslawyer.com
Attorney Negligence – Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney – Los Angeles