Mesh Medical Device News Desk, August 4, 2019 ~ Another woman has joined four other plaintiffs in alleging legal malpractice by two large Houston law firms.
Meanwhile Clark Love Hutson has fired back against the firm that’s accusing it.
On July 23, Pamela Johnson became the latest mesh-injured woman to file a legal malpractice against her law firms, Clark, Love & Hutson (CLH) and Lee & Murphy Law (LM) group, both of Houston, Texas.
Image: Protesters, Wharton Co Texas August 2, 2019
She joins four other women in accusing the firms of breaching their fiduciary duty to their clients. See the MND story on the June lawsuit filed by the four women here. [Southern District, Texas, Houston, Alvarado et al v CLH 4:19-cv-02148]
Johnson, of Mission Viejo, California, had an AMS SPARC incontinence sling implanted on December 12, 2005. She hired Clark Love Hutson around November 2011.
Her complaint, filed by the Beggs Landers law firm of Irving, Texas, says that CLH never filed a case on her behalf.
Johnson’s case was settled with AMS in 2015, even though the statute of limitations had run against her claim, essentially making it worthless.
Beggs Landers does not specify the exact settlement amount paid to Johnson. Doing so likely would have triggered a motion to seal the complaint as CLH did in the Alvarado case. It remains sealed.
Since that hasn’t happened, here is the Pamela Johnson Complaint.
What’s the Problem?
Clark Love Hutson and Lee Murphy, used mass marketers to advertise and solicit an unusually large number of transvaginal mesh claims, 26,000, most filed in multidistrict (MDL) litigation in Charleston, West Virginia. CLH then had to process or prepare for trial or settlement thousands of product liability cases including gathering medical records and evidence.
Now a total of five women claim that their cases were never properly filed and that the women were not told their cases were then worthless. There are hundreds possibly thousands of cases that were never filed, says Beggs Landers, because the defendant firms were allegedly thinly staffed and could not process the sheer number of cases it had amassed.
Each state has a different time period within which to file a case under the Statute of Limitations, unless there is a “tolling agreement” between both sides that stops the clock from running. (See your state as to how long you have to file a personal injury claim under the Statute of Limitations here).
The women claim the two law firms:
* Blew the statute of limitations by failing to file their product liability cases against mesh makers in a timely manner
* Never worked up cases
* Never ordered medical records
* Negotiated “puny” settlements
* Did not tell women they were being packaged with less valuable cases for settlement purposes, therefore allegedly lowering the value of each case.
According to the complaint filed by the four women, 34 transvaginal mesh cases have been tried in state or federal court and 26 have resulted in jury verdicts totaling more than $545 million.
That is an average of $20.9 million each while settlements received by mesh-injured women average around $40,000. In some cases that is before legal fees and medical costs are subtracted.
On July 18th, CLH reacted.
Filing its own action against Beggs Landers asking for a temporary restraining order and injunctions, CLH filed the action in Wharton County, Texas, a tiny town outside of Houston with a population of 41,000, which is reported to be a friendly venue for CLH. Judge Ben Hardin presided at the hearing.
CLH alleges Landers and Beggs, the lawyers who are representing the five women “tortiously interfered with CLH’s contracts and relations with TVM clients,” and has “aided and abetted” the publication of confidential TVM settlement information.
Specifically Clark Love Hutson alleges:
Beggs Landers improperly acquired CLH “trade secrets” confidential client lists to sue CLH
Beggs Landers used the ill-gotten list to send mailed solicitations to the list of CLH clients from California in violations of Texas rules of professional conduct
Beggs Landers committed tortious interference with CLH client relations and contracts
Beggs Landers referred to settlements as “small and puny”
Beggs Landers told a New York Times reporter about the amounts of TVM settlements paid and the average of those settlements in violation of confidentiality clauses
Beggs Landers continues to solicit CLH clients
Beggs Landers improperly impugned the ongoing settlement trust in Wharton County
At a hearing in the Wharton County court last Friday, a local judge plans to decide whether to take action against Beggs Landers. If the firm refuses to testify about how it allegedly obtained a list of CLH clients, Beggs Landers could be held in contempt of court.
Another hearing is set for August 16th where more mesh injured women are expected to publicly express their feelings toward CLH outside the courthouse.
For its part, CLH denies any wrongdoing with the filing and settling of its pelvic mesh cases.
The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room
In its lawsuit against Beggs Landers, CLH and Lee Murphy do not address the heart of the original allegations against CLH – that its representation of the five women amounts to legal malpractice!
Instead, CLH delves into its suspicion that someone leaked a proprietary list of clients and that settlement amounts were revealed to the public in the Alvarado complaint.
“It is believed that Beggs Landers Willfully, malicious, and/or unlawfully misappropriated CLH’s trade secrets by acquiring them from another who Beggs Landers knew or had reason to know had acquired the trade secrets by improper means.”
CLH wants the court to restrain Beggs Landers from any further soliciting CLH clients, from sending ads encouraging women to sue CLH, and to stop using the CLH TVM client list for any purpose at all. CLH says it is harmed by the possibility of losing TVM clients and its reputation, as well as income from its clients.
According to documents filed in multidistrict litigation (MDL), where most of the 107,000 mesh cases have been consolidated, Clark Love Hutson stands to receive about $45 million in fees, a portion of the manufacturer settlements of $8 billion, along with 40% from their 26,000 mesh cases that have settled.
As the two competing law firms duke it out over whether legal malpractice has occurred, Mesh News Desk got an email today that “Suzy” was just informed her Ethicon pelvic mesh case is being dropped by CLH and Lee Murphy. She tells MND she was unable to afford to have her bladder sling removed.
Women filed in West Virginia have been given five years to have a mesh removal, therefore qualify for a settlement. ###