At first the fraud lawsuit against Houston law firm Clark Love Hutson was sealed.
Then it was unsealed.
Then it was sealed again.
This maneuvering behind the scenes is proving to be typical of the mass tort players involved in representing thousands of pelvic mesh cases.
Plaintiffs who thought they were signing up for individual representation from mass tort lawyers, soon found themselves sold to another firm, then another. Many sought the Big Player law firms that had been involved in Big cases – Vioxx, Fen-Phen - and bragged about it on their websites. What could go wrong?
Apparently, a lot.
As pelvic mesh litigation grew into monumental numbers, ultimately 107,000 cases filed in one federal court in West Virginia, the prospects for profit began to reach new heights as well. Lawyers began aggressively advertising for new clients, sometimes advertising instead of hiring support staff to handle the cases they already had.
While some firms filed cases and managed the load, it now appears in this lawsuit filed against Clark, Love Hutson and Lee Myers that no one was minding the store. In legal terms, that means statute of limitations (SOL) were allegedly blown, making the cases worthless. A cover-up allegedly tried to hide the evidence by filing cases en masse in state court. The women were told nothing.
The worthless cases were then allegedly packaged with catastrophically injured women’s cases which has led to a fraud lawsuit filed on behalf of four pelvic mesh plaintiffs, filed June 13th in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, (Case no. 4:19-cv-02148) by Beggs Landers Law firm of Irving, Texas.
Ultimately, these two Houston law firms named may not be the only ones who allegedly put profits over their plaintiffs and turned individual litigation into a settlement mill, churning out millions for very little litigation heavy lifting.
Mesh News Desk talked to Jim Beggs and Lynda Landers about their action.
Lynda Landers - “If you are taught in law school, you risk losing your license if you miss the SOL. That doesn’t mean you will if you made a mistake, but this seems to be something totally different. Anytime a lawyer misses the SOL and doesn’t tell their client they are at risk of losing their license. The plaintiff should have been given a choice to opt out. Instead, they were pressured that you really didn’t have an option."
Jim Beggs– “The real issue is not informing the client, that’s the thing. Missing is one thing, not informing that’s malpractice and the plaintiff is not able to make an informed decision. They have a fiduciary duty to their client. Also state law requires a lawyer to return the file to client when they request it. Regardless. They have to make an informed decision and so often their phone calls weren’t even returned.”
Jim – “Typically it’s when they contact a law firm, two years from that date. But it’s also when they knew or should have known. But many were never filed at all, so the statute was definitely blown then. It’s complicated by the extension of the date because there are so many claims. Many didn’t know they had a potential legal action until they saw an advertisement on television and hired someone.”
Jim Beggs – “It’s very significant because a blown statute case has very little value. The defendant knows that and make a lowball offer and say ‘Take it or leave it.” If you weren’t going to get anything because of a blown statute. Through the years the defendant offered nothing when the SOL is blown. If you had a great case, you got screwed. Instead of telling the women, they went out and got more cases no matter how much money the women would make.”
Lynda Landers - “It seems people don’t understand in addition to the individual women, they have a duty to everyone in the group if they are settling that case with another where the statute has been blown. They didn’t tell any of these women any of that. It’s law school 101 if you miss a SOL you tell your client, then you settle with your client and put your malpractice carrier on notice.”
Lynda – “Right now we feel it’s better to look at cases individually as thousands come forward. We may end up doing it like an MDL and settle. That way you have ethical attorneys handling it. I don’t think it was one law firm.”
Jim – “Forfeiture is one option but this is new territory.”
Lynda- “The women need to get more money. One women is forever changed, most are forever in pain forever. They got $40,000 and none of the revision surgeries they felt pressured into helped them and they had multiple ones at the suggestion of their law firm. The stories we hear are horrific.
“It’s all rooted on the bottom line and greed. I’ve managed high volume cases and you have a plan going in. Software will remind you about the SOL. It sends off alarms. There has been mismanagement of the cases. They gathered bodies instead of managing cases, hiring paralegals. Instead, they did more advertising.
“That’s the difference between a class action versus an MDL. It’s supposed to be better for client than a class action because a class sets certain fees. An MDL is supposed to provide a better recovery for a class action because a class will set a certain fee and not look at a person individually.”
If your law firm has refused to give you your documents in the case it is difficult to know. Understand that the case belongs to you and you own the paperwork in your case, so it is not improper to ask for what belongs to you.
If you are uncertain and feel you do not have all of your paperwork there are some avenues:
• Send a certified letter to the law firm requesting your file. Remind them if you have attempted to contact a lawyer in the case and for how long and how many tries approximately. The request should be for A) Your Contract, B) Settlement Agreement, C) Filings in court along with the date
• Tell the firm in your formal demand letter that you have a right to your paperwork and all of it.
• Please keep a copy of the formal demand letter and provide a date by which time you want to receive your paperwork. If that date is not met, keep a record of that as well.
Lynda- ‘If they don’t answer them, call us and we can find out if it look suspicious and we see a pattern. We will have to go through discovery and get the documents. We will try to set up something so they can check themselves. You have a righto your paperwork.”
Lynda- “They have none on the case themselves. Suing the lawyer, redress legal fees and damages.
Jim- “If you have signed your agreement you only have the avenue to file a lawsuit against your law firm. The complaint against the mesh maker cannot be reopened. It is closed.” ###
MND, Lawsuit alleges Houston Law firms defrauded Thousands in Pelvic Mesh litigation, June 21, 2019
MND, Slater comes Out Swinging in Pelvic Mesh Fee Allocation, March 29, 2019
MND, Divvying the Dollars – Common Benefit Firm Winners and Objectors, March 23, 2019