A former client of Brent W. Coon PC of Beaumont and of lawyer Gary Riebschlager of Houston nonsuited a lawsuit she had filed against them in March, in which she alleged their malpractice resulted in a $948,178 judgment against her.
On Oct. 11, 55th District Judge Jeff Shadwick signed an order dismissing the suit without prejudice after considering plaintiff Linda Louise Rutherford’s Oct. 9 notice of nonsuit without prejudice.
On Nov. 2, her attorney, Timothy Hootman of Houston, sent a letter of apology to Brent Coon, founder of the firm, for filing the lawsuit against his firm and Riebschlager.
“The case was destined to failure because Gary did nothing whatsoever incorrect or wrong,” Hootman wrote in the letter, which Coon provided to Texas Lawyer.
Hootman wrote that, in retrospect, he should have called the firm before he filed the petition for Rutherford, “for it is clear to me now that you and Gary would have immediately dealt with the issue square on and shown me the major and absolute flaws in my case.”
Hootman, a solo, did not respond to either a phone message or email seeking comment. Riebschlager did not return a phone message.
In an email about Rutherford v. Riebschlager, Coon wrote that Rutherford’s allegations were “patently false,” and once the facts were brought to Hootman’s attention, “he recognized that it was a bogus suit, and after dismissing the case also remitted a letter of apology.”
The firm is also known as Brent Coon & Associates.
In a telephone interview, Coon said, “He wrote a nice, contrite letter.”
In her amended original petition filed on March 15, Rutherford alleged the defendants failed to respond to discovery requests or a motion for summary judgment in a suit filed against her in Dallas County, which led to the judgment. [See "Law Offices of Brent Coon & Associates Hit with Malpractice Suit," Texas Lawyer, March 25, 2013, page 1.]
Rutherford brought a cause of action for malpractice and sought actual damages consisting of the value of the judgment against her, and she brought a breach of fiduciary duty cause of action and sought damages consisting of fee forfeiture.
In an original answer and counterclaim filed on May 29, Riebschlager and Brent W. Coon PC pleaded the affirmative defense of release, because the alleged summary judgment issued against Rutherford “has been released in all respects” and was “satisfied and settled for pennies on the dollar.”
In response to the allegations, the defendants alleged in the answer that Rutherford filed a “vindictive and utterly baseless petition, rife with specific factual misrepresentations, outright falsehoods and blatant general fallacy.” Among other things, the defendants alleged that Rutherford failed in her petition to inform the court that no judgment exists and that Riebschlager answered all discovery in the underlying litigation.
“Hootman and/or Counter-Defendant knew or should have known that their claim was false, but proceeded to file this petition, which amounts to fraud upon this court,” Riebschlager and the firm alleged in the answer.
The defendants brought a defamation counterclaim against Rutherford and sought sanctions against her for filing a groundless petition for an improper purpose. They sought a dismissal, sanctions, costs and expenses against her.
Coon said he hasn’t decided if he will dismiss the counterclaim. “I’m going to let it sit there a while,” he said.