The Lanier Law Firm and Kelly, Smith & Murrah are fighting over referral fees in Alfonso Lopez, et al. v. Caterpillar Inc., et al., a products liability suit that settled after a $25 million judgment in favor of plaintiffs Maria Elena Lopez and Alfonso Lopez.

The fee dispute between the two Houston-based firms is being waged in two different state district courts. In Bexar County, the Lanier Law Firm is seeking a declaratory judgment that its clients, the Lopezes, did not hire Kelly Smith to represent them and that the Lanier firm does not owe referral fees to Kelly Smith. The Lanier firm also seeks a declaratory judgment that Kelly Smith’s fees for representing The Hartford Insurance Co. — the worker’s compensation carrier that filed an intervention in the Lopez suit in January 2008 — should be paid solely by The Hartford. Alfonso Lopez was paralyzed in 2006 when a Caterpillar scraper he was operating allegedly malfunctioned.

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