Houston lawyer Michael Pohl has filed a lawsuit alleging three lawyers and their firms, as well as a marketer who once worked for him, conspired to misappropriate his trade secrets and other confidential information and used it for their own gain—with the lawyers using it specifically to file litigation against Pohl for alleged barratry and other claims.
Pohl, of Law Office of Michael A. Pohl, seeks more than $1 million in damages from the defendants.
The suit, filed Tuesday, names Lance Kassab and The Kassab Law Firm of Houston; Tina Nicholson and Baker Nicholson of Houston; and F. Douglas Montague III and Montague Pittman & Varnado of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Other defendants are Mississippi public adjuster Scott Favre and his public relations and marketing company, Precision Marketing Group.
“Defendants engaged in a scheme pursuant to which they illegally obtained, maintained, and used trade secrets and other confidential information and property belonging to Pohl,” Pohl alleged in a petition filed in the 189th District Court in Harris County.
Pohl alleged that Favre’s and Precision’s actions breached a 2017 settlement agreement in an underlying lawsuit filed in federal court in Mississippi, and all of the defendants’ actions constitute conversion, violations of the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and conspiracy.
Kassab dismissed the charges.
“This is a retaliation lawsuit. As far as I’m concerned, it goes with the territory,” said Kassab, whose practice focuses on suing lawyers for legal malpractice and other claims.
The other defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.
In the petition, Pohl, who represents clients in motor vehicle accident suits and in litigation stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, alleged he hired Precision to “provide public relations services, to gather and preserve evidence, and to screen and liaise with Pohl’s clients/prospective clients.” Pohl alleged that Precision gained access to his confidential and proprietary information, which included the names of his clients and prospective clients and fee agreements.
Pohl alleged that Favre and Precision, with Nicholson’s assistance, misappropriated information and communications with as many as 10,000 clients or potential clients and “stole physical copies of certain of the information, stole Pohl’s computers and misappropriated electronic data.”
He also alleged that Favre, again with Nicholson, “then secretly sold Pohl’s stolen confidential information and property to Kassab and Montague” for $250,000 in cash and the potential for bonuses.
Pohl alleged that Kassab and Montague knew the information and property were stolen, used the information to solicit Pohl’s clients, and with Nicholson and Montague, filed suits on behalf of Pohl’s clients alleging barratry and other claims.
In addition, Pohl alleged that Favre and Precision’s actions violate a confidential settlement agreement in another lawsuit that was filed in federal court in Mississippi, and that Nicholson represented Favre and Precision in connection with the settlement agreement while at the same time serving as co-counsel with Kassab and Montague in the barratry suits.
In 2017, Kassab filed a suit in state court in Harris County against Pohl and other lawyers, alleging they participated in a “barratry pyramid scheme” to solicit clients to sue BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. According to Kassab, a judge dismissed the barratry cause of action in that suit, but barratry claims remain pending in two other suits he filed against Pohl and others in June 2017 alleging that Pohl and others engaged in a joint venture to unlawfully solicit automobile accident clients. The defendants denied the allegations in the suits.
In an interview, Kassab said any money paid to Favre was for a retainer because he is an expert witness.