Dale Jefferson.
Dale Jefferson. (Courtesy photo)

Nearly three years after an injured oil platform worker hired Houston plaintiffs firm Gordon, Elias & Seely to sue on his behalf, his lawyer contacted him with “very, very bad news” about his case and encouraged him to get legal advice about suing the firm for malpractice.

That’s exactly what Glenn Price did on March 14, when he filed a negligence lawsuit in the 127th District Court in Harris County, Texas, seeking more than $1 million in actual and exemplary damages from the firm and two of its partners: Jeff Seely and R. Todd Elias.

In Price v. Gordon, Elias & Seely, Price, of Opelousas, Louisiana, alleged the defendants were negligent when they failed to timely prosecute his claim for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and also when they failed to investigate, file and prosecute third-party liability claims in connection with his April 16, 2014, injuries.

Price alleged the defendants’ conduct was “outrageous” under Louisiana law.

Seely and Elias did not immediately return telephone messages seeking a comment.

But their lawyer, Dale Jefferson, a partner in Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom in Houston, said he is proud of his clients for owning up to their mistake in the handling of Price’s case. Lawyers rarely do that, he said.

“My clients are not at all retreating from that letter,” said Jefferson, who does a lot of legal malpractice defense work. “They are proud of the fact that once they realized they made a mistake, they owned up to the mistake and informed their client of their legal obligations even though it was against their self-interest.”

At the end of the day, the suit is going to boil down to damages, Jefferson said.

“What sum of money did the mistake cause? That will be the focal point,” he said.

But a lawyer for Price, James “Sandy” McCorquodale of A M Lawyers in Dallas, said he has encountered other situations where lawyers missed a statute of limitations and informed the client of their mistake. He said ethical rules obligate lawyers to keep their clients informed.

“I don’t find that unusual,” he said.

Charles Musslewhite, of Musslewhite & Associates in Houston, who also represents Price, did not immediately return a telephone message.

In his original petition, Price alleges he was injured when working as an offshore production operator on a platform affixed to the seabed off the coast of Louisiana on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. He alleges he was “directed” by someone on the platform who did not work for his employer to lift a heavy metal door, but that person failed to provide him with proper tools and equipment to safely lift the door. As a result, Price alleges, he sustained injuries to his abdominal wall, intestines, groin, neck and back. He was evacuated from the platform and underwent surgery. He has not been able to return to work as an offshore production operator since then.

Price alleged the defendants “sent an unknown person” to his house to convince him to sign an attorney/client agreement to represent him in connection with claims and remedies related to his injuries, and he did sign it. He alleges he was assured Gordon Elias could represent him in Louisiana because a member of the firm is licensed to practice in Louisiana. However, according to the petition, neither Elias nor Seely is licensed in Louisiana.

Price alleged he received indemnity payments from his employer’s insurer under the LHWCA for about a year, but they were terminated on April 22, 2015, and he notified the firm. He alleges the defendants took no action to file and prosecute a claim for benefits under the LHWCA on his behalf, and the statute of limitations of one year ran out.

Price alleged that on April 15, 2015, Seely wrote him to tell him that because his accident occurred on the Outer Continental Shelf, the three-year maritime statute of limitation applies. The lawyer also wrote that because Price’s medical therapy was then almost over, he would “take steps to file suit.”

Price also alleged that the defendants took no action until Sept. 9, 2016, when they filed a verified petition to perpetuate testimony in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to secure testimony from a company. However, after the company moved to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction and because a one-year statute of limitations had lapsed, the defendants dismissed the action on Nov. 8, 2016.

“In the end, defendants never filed a third-party liability claim against the person supervising and directing Price to perform the work with the heavy metal door … or the employer of that person, or any other party legally responsible for the incident and Price’s injuries and damages. This failure constitutes outrageous conduct under Louisiana law,” the plaintiff alleged in the petition.

Price alleged they “left him in the dark for two months” about the dismissal until Seely wrote to him on Jan. 17. In that note, according to the petition, Seely wrote he is “saddened to give you very, very bad news about your case” and that “because of a misunderstanding about the facts” of the case, he now believes the statute of limitations in Price’s case is one year instead of the three years he had initially believed. Seely told Price that “unfortunately” he would not be successful in a claim against any defendant.

“Because of my mistake, you do have an opportunity to sue my law firm for legal malpractice. I encourage you very much to get legal advice about the issue,” Seely wrote, adding that he could no longer serve as Price’s lawyer or assist him in paying medical expenses.

Nearly three years after an injured oil platform worker hired Houston plaintiffs firm Gordon, Elias & Seely to sue on his behalf, his lawyer contacted him with “very, very bad news” about his case and encouraged him to get legal advice about suing the firm for malpractice.

That’s exactly what Glenn Price did on March 14, when he filed a negligence lawsuit in the 127th District Court in Harris County, Texas, seeking more than $1 million in actual and exemplary damages from the firm and two of its partners: Jeff Seely and R. Todd Elias.

In Price v. Gordon, Elias & Seely, Price, of Opelousas, Louisiana, alleged the defendants were negligent when they failed to timely prosecute his claim for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and also when they failed to investigate, file and prosecute third-party liability claims in connection with his April 16, 2014, injuries.

Price alleged the defendants’ conduct was “outrageous” under Louisiana law.

Seely and Elias did not immediately return telephone messages seeking a comment.

But their lawyer, Dale Jefferson, a partner in Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom in Houston, said he is proud of his clients for owning up to their mistake in the handling of Price’s case. Lawyers rarely do that, he said.

“My clients are not at all retreating from that letter,” said Jefferson, who does a lot of legal malpractice defense work. “They are proud of the fact that once they realized they made a mistake, they owned up to the mistake and informed their client of their legal obligations even though it was against their self-interest.”

At the end of the day, the suit is going to boil down to damages, Jefferson said.

“What sum of money did the mistake cause? That will be the focal point,” he said.

But a lawyer for Price, James “Sandy” McCorquodale of A M Lawyers in Dallas, said he has encountered other situations where lawyers missed a statute of limitations and informed the client of their mistake. He said ethical rules obligate lawyers to keep their clients informed.

“I don’t find that unusual,” he said.

Charles Musslewhite, of Musslewhite & Associates in Houston, who also represents Price, did not immediately return a telephone message.

In his original petition, Price alleges he was injured when working as an offshore production operator on a platform affixed to the seabed off the coast of Louisiana on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. He alleges he was “directed” by someone on the platform who did not work for his employer to lift a heavy metal door, but that person failed to provide him with proper tools and equipment to safely lift the door. As a result, Price alleges, he sustained injuries to his abdominal wall, intestines, groin, neck and back. He was evacuated from the platform and underwent surgery. He has not been able to return to work as an offshore production operator since then.

Price alleged the defendants “sent an unknown person” to his house to convince him to sign an attorney/client agreement to represent him in connection with claims and remedies related to his injuries, and he did sign it. He alleges he was assured Gordon Elias could represent him in Louisiana because a member of the firm is licensed to practice in Louisiana. However, according to the petition, neither Elias nor Seely is licensed in Louisiana.

Price alleged he received indemnity payments from his employer’s insurer under the LHWCA for about a year, but they were terminated on April 22, 2015, and he notified the firm. He alleges the defendants took no action to file and prosecute a claim for benefits under the LHWCA on his behalf, and the statute of limitations of one year ran out.

Price alleged that on April 15, 2015, Seely wrote him to tell him that because his accident occurred on the Outer Continental Shelf, the three-year maritime statute of limitation applies. The lawyer also wrote that because Price’s medical therapy was then almost over, he would “take steps to file suit.”

Price also alleged that the defendants took no action until Sept. 9, 2016, when they filed a verified petition to perpetuate testimony in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to secure testimony from a company. However, after the company moved to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction and because a one-year statute of limitations had lapsed, the defendants dismissed the action on Nov. 8, 2016.

“In the end, defendants never filed a third-party liability claim against the person supervising and directing Price to perform the work with the heavy metal door … or the employer of that person, or any other party legally responsible for the incident and Price’s injuries and damages. This failure constitutes outrageous conduct under Louisiana law,” the plaintiff alleged in the petition.

Price alleged they “left him in the dark for two months” about the dismissal until Seely wrote to him on Jan. 17. In that note, according to the petition, Seely wrote he is “saddened to give you very, very bad news about your case” and that “because of a misunderstanding about the facts” of the case, he now believes the statute of limitations in Price’s case is one year instead of the three years he had initially believed. Seely told Price that “unfortunately” he would not be successful in a claim against any defendant.

“Because of my mistake, you do have an opportunity to sue my law firm for legal malpractice. I encourage you very much to get legal advice about the issue,” Seely wrote, adding that he could no longer serve as Price’s lawyer or assist him in paying medical expenses.