A malpractice suit against Thompson & Knight that was cleared in 2010 to move forward in New York City is now in Texas.
On June 9, Patriot Exploration LLC and Patriot Land LLC filed Patriot Exploration LLC, et al. v. Thompson & Knight in the 68th District Court in Dallas County. In their petition, the plaintiffs allege they sustained damages in connection with the firm’s representation of them in an oil and gas deal with Apollo Resources International Inc.
As alleged, Patriot Exploration hired Thompson & Knight in 2006. Relying on advice from Thompson & Knight, Patriot Exploration entered into a participation agreement with Apollo Resources for some land and leases, although public records in Sutton County, Texas, show that the owner of the land and leases had assigned them to Apollo Natural Gas and not its affiliated company Apollo Resources.
The plaintiffs allege that after Thompson & Knight was unable to obtain a “corrective assignment’ from Apollo Resources and Apollo Natural Gas, the firm notified the Patriot companies in February 2008 it was ceasing its efforts” to obtain the documents and assumed Patriot Exploration would hire new lawyers.
The plaintiffs allege they hired new counsel, who cleared up the title issue, but that work cost them $326,000 in legal fees and costs, after paying $51,839 to Thompson & Knight for its work on the transaction.
The plaintiffs bring legal malpractice, breach of contract and unjust enrichment causes of action against Thompson & Knight and seek unspecified actual damages, interest and attorneys’ fees.
Back to Texas
The litigation has traveled a long road to Dallas. In 2008, Patriot Exploration and Patriot Land filed a virtually identical malpractice suit against Thompson & Knight in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the County of New York. That suit related to work the firm did for the Patriot companies, both based in Greenwich, Conn., from 2006 through 2008.
Thompson & Knight sought dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds, but the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, decided in July 2010 that a lower court did not abuse its discretion in declining to dismiss it. However, on Feb. 17, the Court of Appeals of the State of New York issued an order reversing the intermediate appellate court’s order.
“It is apparent from the record that defendant’s forum non conveniens motion was denied on the basis of Supreme Court’s mistaken understanding that plaintiffs would face a statute of limitations barrier to suit in an alternative forum. In fact, plaintiffs failed to show that any such barrier exists, and in any event, the issue can be dealt with by the imposition of conditions to which defendant has consented,” the Court of Appeals of the State of New York wrote.
On April 29, Justice Charles E. Ramos of the Supreme Court of the State of New York signed an order stipulating the parties agreed that the plaintiffs would file a Texas suit within 90 days and Thompson & Knight would not raise statute of limitations defenses.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Coyt Randal Johnston of Johnston u Tobey, says the June 9 Dallas petition is essentially the same as the one that had been pending in New York.
“Same facts, same claims,” Johnston says.
Luke Ashley, a Thompson & Knight partner in Dallas who is the firm’s general counsel, says the firm denies the allegations in the petition.