Barratry Suit Over Deepwater Horizon Spill Victims Dismissed June 5, 2019
HOUSTON – A Harris County district judge has granted a motion for summary judgment that dismissed the last plaintiffs from a barratry case filed two years ago against several Houston lawyers accused of improperly soliciting victims of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
That means the lawsuit is finally gone, which fulfills a deathbed promise that AZA lawyer John Zavitsanos made to his now late friend Jimmy Williamson, one of the attorney- defendants in the case.
The suit was filed in 2017, just a few weeks before Mr. Williamson died of cancer. Lawyer Lance Kassab sued on behalf of 272 people, alleging that Mr. Williamson, attorney Michael Pohl and others improperly solicited victims of the oil spill. The final dismissal of the case is featured in the legal news stories Houston Lawyer Fulfills Deathbed Promise to Attorney-Friend Facing Barratry Allegations (subscription required) in Texas Lawyer and 3 Houston Attys Get Deepwater Horizon Barratry Case Tossed (subscription required) in Law360.
AZA associate Patrick Yarborough and Mr. Zavitsanos represented the estate of Mr. Williamson pro bono. Co-defendant Pohl, who also obtained summary judgment, was represented by Houston attorney Billy Shepherd. The defense lawyers filed motions over the two years that tore the case apart piece by piece.
They got 266 plaintiffs knocked out with a limitations argument in 2018. They got a breach of fiduciary duty claim knocked out that year, too. The plaintiffs gave up on a negligence claim in early 2019. And Harris County District Judge Scot Dollinger dismissed the last few plaintiffs this week, finding that they were never clients of the defendant lawyers and that the remaining claims were also barred by the statute of limitations.
Mr. Yarborough told Law360 that the plaintiffs remaining in the lawsuit were not even clients of the defendant lawyers. “Lance Kassab calling us criminals is the pot calling the kettle black — he did something far more egregious than anything we’re accused of,” Mr. Yarborough told Law360. “He went out and bought … private, confidential, attorney-client information in order to turn those clients against their lawyers. It’s a total violation of ethics.”
Mr. Zavitsanos told Texas Lawyer that he was glad for his late friend Mr. Williamson that the case was fully dismissed. “I gave Jimmy my word this guy would never receive one penny, and that I would protect his children,” Mr. Zavitsanos told Texas Lawyer of his deathbed promise to Mr. Williamson. “I feel Jimmy’s reputation is now back intact as one of the great trial lawyers of Texas.”
The case was Dezzie Brumfield DBA Lad Enterprises v. Jimmy Williamson et al., case number 201738294-7, in the Harris County 189th Civil District Court.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2019 among the best in Texas commercial law; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for seven years running including 2019; and previously by Law360 as a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 1000.