Mexican residents who were plaintiffs in lawsuits surrounding a 2007 deadly offshore oil platform explosion are now seeking over $1 million in an attorney negligence lawsuit against three Texas law firms and seven lawyers who represented them.
The plaintiffs allege that the defendant firms and lawyers “failed to ‘prosecute their cases in good faith,'” and as a result they are “forever barred” from refiling their personal injury suits.
“In the end, the fatal negligence of the lawyers deprived these plaintiffs of their right to seek redress for the injuries and deaths they sustained,” the plaintiffs allege in Dominguez v. Arnold & Itkin.
The defendants are Houston-based Arnold & Itkin, founders Kurt Arnold and Jason Itkin and lawyer Cory Itkin; Beck Redden of Houston and partners Russell Post and Fields Alexander and former associate Jas Brar; and Eric Albritton of Longview and his firm, Albritton Law Firm.
The plaintiffs, who are either oil field workers who were on the mobile drilling rig Usumacinta during the explosion or survivors of those killed, bring these causes of action against the defendants:
attorney negligence, gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and constructive fraud, and misapplication of fiduciary property.
Arnold said the allegations in the petition have “no merit, period” and he had no inkling before the suit was filed that any of the plaintiffs were upset.
“We assembled a really good team of really good lawyers that put a lot of time and effort into prosecuting these cases,” Arnold said, adding that Arnold & Itkin spent more than $400,000 on the suits.
He said they were trying to acquire jurisdiction in the United States for the underlying suits.
“The federal court declined to accept jurisdiction. We hired well-respected Mexican counsel and ultimately we were disappointed in the outcome, but the idea it was malpractice was not even close,” Arnold said.
The plaintiffs seek more than $1 million in actual and punitive damages, but plaintiffs attorney Lance Kassab, of Kassab Law Firm of Houston, said damages would certainly be in the multimillions.
In the petition, filed in the 11th District Court in Harris County, the plaintiffs allege that 22 died and 63 were injured in an explosion on a mobile offshore platform off the Bay of Campeche, Mexico.
The plaintiffs allege that they retained the defendants to represent them in claims against the parties responsible for the deaths and injuries. Beginning in October 2008, the defendants filed a number of suits in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking actual and punitive damages from defendants that included a number of Mexican and U.S. companies, they allege.
With a defense motion pending to dismiss the underlying cases on forum non conveniens grounds, a federal judge in the Eastern District consolidated all the suits in September 2010. In March 2011, then-U.S. District Judge John Ward of the Eastern District of Texas conditionally granted the motion. That order, however, also gave the defendants five conditions to keep the underlying suits alive, including a requirement to file the suits in Mexican courts, the plaintiffs allege in the petition. The plaintiffs allege that the judge’s order also stated that if the Mexican courts refuse to accept jurisdiction of the cases “for reasons other than plaintiffs’ refusal to pursue an action or to comply with the procedural requirements of the Mexican courts,” a U.S. judge may reassert jurisdiction.
The plaintiffs allege that from February to May 2013, the defendants filed only 11 of the more than 80 original suits in Mexico, and the underlying defendants challenged jurisdiction. The Mexican courts rejected jurisdiction, the plaintiffs allege.
The plaintiffs allege the defendants failed to appeal that decision in Mexico, and instead filed a motion to reinstate the litigation in U.S. federal courts. However, on May 14, 2014, U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone of the Eastern District of Texas denied that motion.
According to the petition, Crone noted in a memorandum opinion that the defendants did not prosecute in good faith the 11 suits they filed in Mexico, and “grossly failed” to litigate the others diligently and in good faith.
“Thus, on May 14, 2014, as a direct and proximate result of the lawyers’ gross malfeasance, the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ underlying lawsuits.”
The plaintiffs allege that the suits are barred by the statute of limitations in Mexico, and also barred in the United States because the defendants failed to comply with Ward’s March 10, 2011, order requiring the underlying suits to be litigated and filed in Mexico diligently and in good faith.
The plaintiffs further allege that after the May 14, 2014, dismissal, “some of the lawyers sent deceitful withdrawal letters to the plaintiffs wherein they attempted to conceal and downplay the significance of their actions and conceal their wrongdoing.” The defendants also “neglected” to appeal the dismissal order.
“As a result of the defendants’ grossly incompetent strategy, plaintiffs were left with no remedy for themselves or their loved ones who lost lives,” the plaintiffs allege in the petition.
Originally posted by Brenda Sapino Jeffreys on texaslawyer.com.
Attorney Negligence – Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney – Los Angeles