A Texas-based cellphone retailer is seeking more than $1 million in damages in a legal malpractice suit alleging a North Carolina trial firm promised to use its best efforts to represent the company “free-of-charge” in a class-action suit after missing a filing deadline—but instead did very little work.
Prime Communications, a Sugar Land, Texas, company that is the nation’s largest privately owned AT&T retailer, further alleges that the defendant, Raleigh, North Carolina-based Ragsdale Liggett, later withdrew entirely from the representation shortly before the due date for a response to a motion for summary judgment.
Prime Communications, which in November announced it would buy GameStop Corp.’s Spring Mobile business, brings breach of contract and legal malpractice causes of action against Ragsdale Liggett in the case—Prime Communications v. Ragsdale Liggett.
David Liggett, managing partner of Ragsdale Liggett, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a petition filed Thursday in state district court in Harris County, Prime Communications alleges it retained Ragsdale Liggett to defend it from a federal suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other state law claims.
Prime Communications alleges that a judge in March 2014 entered an order conditionally granting class certification in that suit, but Ragsdale Liggett did not seek permission to file an interlocutory appeal of the order until three days after the deadline to do so. Ultimately, the plaintiff alleges, an appeals court dismissed that petition as untimely filed.
“Ragsdale, of course, was now on the hook for malpractice,” Prime Communications alleges.
Prime Communications alleges the firm persuaded it to enter into a letter agreement July 18, 2014, in which it agreed to forego filing a malpractice claim against the firm, and the firm agreed to “use its ‘best efforts’ to represent Prime Communications free-of-charge for the remainder of the NC lawsuit.”
Prime Communications notes in the petition that the agreement called for Ragsdale Liggett to receive any available defense payments from Prime Communications’ insurance provider, but the firm would not seek more if its charges exceeded the insurer’s payments.
Prime Communications alleges that after that agreement, it became clear the firm was not putting forth its best efforts.
“Instead, it appeared that Ragsdale devoted as little time and attention to the case as it could,” Prime Communications alleges.
On April 6, 2017, an associate general counsel for Prime Communications, in an email, “expressed his concerns regarding Ragsdale’s ‘sub-par’ efforts, which Prime Communications believed was in violation of the parties’ July 18, 2014, letter agreement.”
Less than a week later—and less than two weeks before the due date for Prime Communications’ response to a motion for summary judgment—Ragsdale Liggett notified the firm it was withdrawing from the suit due to a conflict of interest that arose because of the email from the associate general counsel.
Prime Communications is represented by Ashish Mahendru, of Mahendru P.C. of Houston. Mahendru could not immediately be reached for comment.