James Payne

 

A Houston woman has sued the Provost Umphrey Law Firm of Beaumont as well as partner James Payne, alleging their negligence resulted in her losing an appeal in a legal malpractice suit she filed against her divorce lawyer.

Leticia Loya is seeking more than $1 million in damages from Payne and Provost Umphrey, a prominent Texas plaintiffs firm.

Neither Payne nor Provost Umphrey managing partner Joe Fisher II could immediately be reached for comment. However, the firm issued a statement in which it said it will respond to the court with facts that support the actions of the firm.

“Provost Umphrey is proud of our record of success in representing the interests of our clients. In this instance, the latest filing presents just one side of a complex case, ” the firm said.

Loya alleges in the petition she filed on Nov. 29 in state district court in Houston that she retained Provost Umphrey in April 2013 to represent her in an ongoing legal malpractice she had filed against Houston family law attorney Harry Tindall, of Tindall & England. The suit had to do with the value of stock shares Leticia Loya sold to her ex-husband, Miguel Loya, in connection with their divorce.

In June 2014, Provost Umphrey filed an amended petition in the malpractice suit, which added a number of defendants, including Miguel Loya. Some of the defendants were dismissed, and others filed a motion to dismiss in July 2014, alleging that a forum-selection clause that identified Netherlands courts as the exclusive forum for litigation on claims under a shareholder agreement, precluded litigation in Texas courts.

In December 2014, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss, so Provost Umphrey filed an appeal on Leticia Loya’s behalf. Leticia Loya alleges in the petition that the attorney handling the appeal left the firm, and Provost Umphrey failed to identify new counsel Payne as counsel of record so that he would receive notice of appeals court decisions.

Leticia Loya alleges that, even though a Houston appeals court denied her appeal on the forum selection issue in November 2016, the firm never notified her of that ruling, and she discovered it herself through an internet search in November 2017.

The firm filed a motion with the Houston appeals court asking to extend time to seek a rehearing. But it was unsuccessful, and the Texas Supreme Court affirmed that refusal, Loya alleges in the petition.

“ As a result of the wrongdoing of the law firm and James Payne, Loya was left with no recourse or remedy. The defendants’ failure to file a motion for rehearing, and petition for review was not strategic, but instead negligent,” the petition states.

Loya further alleges that neither the firm nor Payne advised her to retain Dutch counsel or file her claims in the Netherlands before her appeals in Texas were exhausted. She alleges Payne promised to determine the statute of limitations in the Netherlands, but “has not followed through on that promise.”

Loya brings negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties causes of action against the defendants. She seeks damages including the money she would have recovered and collected had she prevailed in the underlying litigation.

Plaintiffs attorney Chris Flood, a partner at Flood & Flood in Houston, declined to provide a more precise estimate of Loya’s damages.

As for the allegations, Flood said, “Unfortunately, mistakes happen in our business and people are hurt by it.”

Further Reading:

After 5 Months, Chris Flood Leaves Orrick’s Houston Office, Returns to Practice With Brothers

Suit Alleging Houston Woman Seduced Texas Lawyer Walter Umphrey Settles