A lawsuit that began with allegations that a lawyer emptied her firm’s bank account now involves a counterclaim that one left-behind lawyer used firm funds for strip-club outings.
Two former partners of Houston lawyer Ada Ferrer filed a lawsuit against her earlier this month, alleging that, the day before she resigned from Ferrer, Tu & Payne in November 2013, she “emptied” the firm’s bank account and started soliciting clients for her new firm.
Ferrer hits back in an answer and counterclaim filed on Jan. 20. She alleges her former partners have failed to properly wind up Ferrer Tu after the members voted in December 2013 to dissolve it, and she alleges that money she took from the firm was “salary and expenses that were owed to her.”
She also alleges in her answer and counterclaim that former partner Warrenson Payne misrepresented his experience and work history before joining the firm in 2011 and failed to act professionally while working at the firm.
Ferrer alleges she “took issue with much of Payne’s conduct.”
“This included charging of improper expenses to FTP. Payne used FTP funds to pay for strip club outings as well as other expenditures that Ferrer did not approve,” Ferrer alleges in the answer and counterclaim. “Payne sexually harassed the female employees of FTP, including requesting sex for favorable treatment.”
She also alleges Payne was “not capable” of professionally preparing written correspondence, billing, pleadings or briefs.
“When confronted about his inability to write legal papers Payne called Ferrer an ‘uppity bitch’ and stated, ‘Nobody cares about grammar’ and further stated ‘grammar is for old people,’” Ferrer alleges in the answer and counterclaim.
Payne, now at Tu, Payne & Associates in Houston, declined comment on Ferrer’s allegations, at his attorney’s request.
“We will defend this case in court,” Payne wrote in an email. “Her allegations are false and a smoke screen from her responding to our theft claim.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Joseph Colvin, of Vethan Law Firm of Houston, declined comment.
The courthouse battle between Ferrer and her former partners Payne and Nancy Chong (formerly Nancy Tu) began on Jan. 10, when Payne, Chong and Ferrer Tu filed the petition alleging that Ferrer, Houston lawyer Robert North and his firm, North Law, conspired to breach Ferrer’s fiduciary duty to them by depriving them of the benefit of their clients. In Warrenson Payne v. Ada Ferrer, they alleged Ferrer began “causing friction” at the firm and had a “caustic attitude” that harmed relationships with clients. They allege she began soliciting Ferrer Tu clients around Nov. 23, 2013.
The plaintiffs allege that, because of “tensions,” they want a judge to monitor the windup of the firm.
Ferrer and Chong formed a firm together in 2010, but the firm became Ferrer Tu in August 2011 after Payne joined it. Ferrer resigned on Nov. 22, 2013, and the members voted on Dec. 17, 2013 to wind up the firm.
In her answer and counterclaim, Ferrer denies the allegations and asserts several affirmative defenses, claiming, in part, that the plaintiffs do not have the legal capacity to sue and are not entitled to recover in the capacity in which they have sued.
Ferrer brings a breach of contract counterclaim against the plaintiffs, alleging they failed to collect, sell or distribute Ferrer Tu’s property during the windup period; failed to cease to carry on the firm’s business; and distributed assets to Tu Payne without distributing assets to her.
Ferrer “makes application” to supervise the wind up, alleging Tu and Payne have “failed” to do so.
She seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.
Defendants North and North Law have not filed an answer, according to online records maintained by the Harris County district clerk’s office. North has not returned two telephone messages left at his firm.