A Texas truck leasing company is suing LeClairRyan and two lawyers from other firms for $29 million over a 2006 wrongful death case handled in part by Houston firm Hays, McConn, Rice & Pickering—which LeClairRyan acquired in 2014.
Brewer Leasing, an Odessa company, filed its petition Thursday in state district court in Harris County. Brewer alleges negligence by Hays McConn and lawyer Michael S. Hays, as well as lawyer George T. Jackson and his former firm.
LeClairRyan, reached for comment Thursday, noted that it was not involved in the original case.
According to the original petition in the 2006 suit, Brewer Leasing owned or leased a tractor-trailer involved in the accident that led to the wrongful death claims.
Brewer alleges the lawyers failed to timely provide toxicology information to all parties in the wrongful death case, and because of that, Brewer is facing a $29 million judgment. The toxicology results were revealed in an insurance-related legal proceeding, the petition alleged. So, with that evidence at hand, a judge presiding over a retrial of the wrongful death suit signed the $29 million judgment against Brewer, the petition said.
"We really have nothing to do with this one," Lori Thompson, general counsel at LeClairRyan in Roanoke, Virginia, said about allegations in Brewer Leasing v. Jackson.
LeClairRyan merged with Houston's Hays, McConn, Rice & Pickering in 2014, and Thompson said any work Hays did in the litigation was before the merger.
"We have no direct information about this matter whatsoever, because the claim predates the Hays McConn/LeClairRyan combination, so I cannot imagine any circumstance under which we would have responsibility," Thompson said.
Hays is now a solo practitioner in Houston. Reached Thursday, he declined to comment on the allegations because he had not seen the petition.
Jackson, formerly of Houston's Burck, Lapidus & Lanza, is now a partner in Bush + Ramirez in Houston. He did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.
Burck Lapidus is also named as a defendant, but according to the petition, that firm dissolved in 2017. Mark Lapidus, who is still listed as its president and is now a partner in Lapidus Knudsen in Houston, did not immediately return a call seeking a comment.
In the petition in Brewer Leasing v. Jackson, the plaintiff alleges Jackson, then at Burck Lapidus, and Hays, then at Hays McConn, represented Brewer in the underlying wrongful death suit, which involved several defendants.
Brewer Leasing alleges the lawyers "sought to lessen the impact of the claim against Brewer Leasing and its insurance carrier by negligently concealing, failing to reveal, and thereafter negligently failing to disclose their previous errors" in connection with the cocaine level of a tractor-trailer driver involved in the fatal accident.
The plaintiff alleges the driver "admitted fault at the scene and was almost universally found to be 100 percent at fault in causing the traffic wreck" that caused the death of one woman and injuries to several others.
The family and estate of the woman who was killed in the accident were awarded about $8.8 million in damages at a trial "In which Jackson (and Hays) were successful in excluding any proof of cocaine use," the petition said.
However, Brewer Leasing claims that in a subsequent insurance-related lawsuit, the "damaging" toxicology report was disclosed, and correspondence written by Hays and Jackson in February 2007 about those results "conclusively proves" that they knew about the precise cocaine level in the report, but failed to reveal it in years of litigation that followed. The plaintiff alleges the lawyers in fact "told the court in a formal legal motion to exclude evidence that the level had not been determined."
After the original verdict was set aside, the litigation was retried with only Brewer Leasing as a defendant. A jury returned a verdict lodging about $9 million in actual damages and $20 million in punitive damages against Brewer Leasing. The judge in that suit entered the $29 million judgment, the petition said.
Brewer Leasing is seeking about $29 million in damages, along with interest and costs, from the defendants.
The plaintiff's attorney, solo practitioner George W. Long in Odessa, declined to comment.
"This is a matter that I actually view as rather private," he said.