Houston lawyer Richard N. Laminack uses words such as “silly” and “ridiculous and not true” to respond to allegations contained in a state court suit that describes him as a “sexual predator” who participated in an effort to defraud fen-phen clients by overcharging them for expenses.
Laminack denies the allegations in the suit, filed July 25 by Angela Robinson, who formerly worked for Laminack at two Houston plaintiffs firms. Robinson is suing Laminack; his current firm, Laminack, Pirtle & Martines; and the O’Quinn Law Firm, formerly known as O’Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle. In 2006, Laminack and Thomas Pirtle left O’Quinn, Laminack to form Laminack, Pirtle & Martines, and John O’Quinn renamed O’Quinn, Laminack the O’Quinn Law Firm.
As detailed in her original petition in Angela Robinson v. Richard N. Laminack, et al., Robinson alleges Laminack once offered her $15,000 to stay with him in a hotel room in Las Vegas over a weekend and once suggested she perform a sexual act on an expert witness to improve his mood and testimony.
She alleges Laminack would “routinely demand sexual favors” from female and male employees of the firms; “those giving into Laminack’s appetite secured job security, raises, bonuses and promotions,” and those who didn’t risked getting fired.
“During and after working hours, both on and off the premises and with the actual knowledge of his peers and superiors, he used and continues to use his position of power and authority over vulnerable, economically-dependent and emotionally vulnerable subordinates to seduce or compel, as circumstances might warrant, intimate sexual relations of a conventional as well as deviate nature,” Robinson alleges in the suit. She alleges the firms “adopted the expedient practice of enabling Laminack’s tastes by handsomely compensating injured employees in exchange for their perpetual silence.” [See the plaintiff's original petition.]
Robinson brings broader allegations involving fen-phen litigation against the defendants. Robinson, a Magnolia woman who worked on fen-phen litigation while employed at the firms, alleges the defendants engaged in mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. §1962 for mailing settlement statements to fen-phen clients that contained overcharges for medical records. Robinson alleges “firm employees would order fictitious medical records” for clients from health-care providers that had never treated those clients, and then the firms added $100 to $150 to the expenses deducted from the clients’ portion of their fen-phen settlements for those “fictitious medical records.” She alleges the record companies would then pay a “kickback” to employees of the firms.
Robinson alleges she told Laminack of the “unlawful scheme to defraud thousands of Fen-Phen litigation clients” but he “told her to be quiet and not inform anyone of this” and he directed the firms to mail the settlement statements containing the charges.
She alleges she was wrongfully terminated under the Texas Supreme Court’s 1985 opinion in Sabine Pilot Services v. Hauck for failing to commit an illegal act. Robinson also brings battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress causes of action, alleging she was subject to a hostile work environment. She seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages.
Robinson, who alleges she worked under Laminack’s supervision at O’Quinn, Laminack and at Laminack, Pirtle from May 2002 until her “wrongful termination” on April 14, 2008, seeks unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act totaling $27,500, plus an equal amount in penalties, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
Laminack, managing partner of Laminack, Pirtle, disputes Robinson’s allegation of a “scheme to charge extra for medical records” in litigation filed over the fen-phen diet-drug combo.
“That allegation makes absolutely no sense, because under O’Quinn’s contract, [the O'Quinn firm] pays almost half of the expenses out of his fee. So it doesn’t really make sense for us to engage in some kind of a scheme to increase the expenses,” he says. “Our effort the entire time we handled these expenses was to keep them as low as possible.”
Laminack says Robinson’s allegation that she wasn’t paid for overtime hours she worked is “interesting, to say the least, because that’s one of the primary reasons she was fired.” He alleges Robinson was “cheating on her OT and was warned about this,” but he declines to identify other reasons why Laminack, Pirtle fired Robinson.
In response to that allegation, Robinson’s attorney, Spencer Markle, says, “That’s absolutely untrue. . . . I’m saddened that after victimizing her, he wants to destroy her reputation. . . . I’m confident the evidence will show who is the victim and who is the wrongdoer,” he says.
Markle says Laminack failed to give Robinson a reason why she was fired from Laminack, Pirtle in April.
But in light of Robinson’s allegations, Laminack wonders why she chose to work at O’Quinn, Laminack for so long and then sought a job at the new firm Laminack formed in 2006.
“She was very aggressive at seeking employment with us. This is after all these alleged incidents of sexual harassment had occurred,” Laminack says in an interview.
Laminack also categorically disputes specific allegations about his alleged “sexual predator” behavior toward Robinson and others at his firms.
As to the allegation he offered Robinson $15,000 to spend the weekend with him in Las Vegas in December 2007, Laminack says: “Not true.” As to the allegation he asked Robinson to perform a sex act on an expert witness “so that he would be in a better mood and more receptive to testifying in a manner consistent with the litigation theory of Defendant law firms,” Laminack says: “Ridiculous and not true.”
He also says it’s not true that he would, as Robinson alleges, “routinely demand sexual favors” from employees of the firms.
Houston lawyer Dale Jefferson, a partner in Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom who represents the O’Quinn Law Firm, says the mail fraud allegation against his client is “completely false.” As to the allegations of a hostile work environment at O’Quinn, Laminack when Laminack was working there, Jefferson says Robinson never made a complaint under the firm’s sexual harassment policy.
“When all the facts come to light, I sure hope the actual facts are reported with the same intensity as the alleged facts contained in the petition,” Jefferson says.
Robinson’s attorney, Markle, says it’s not surprising Laminack denies all the allegations in Robinson’s petition.
Markle, of counsel at Houston’s McKinney & Cooper, says the allegations speak for themselves.
In her petition, Robinson alleges the “hostile work environment” produced by Laminack occurred over many years and became “somewhat of a tradition at both law firms.”
“Laminack’s trysts are well known and an established part of both firms’ ‘lore,’ ” Robinson alleges in the petition.
But Markle declines to say why Robinson continued to work in the allegedly hostile environment at the two firms.
“She will address that when she gives her deposition,” Markle says.
In the petition, Robinson writes, “No cause of action under or alleging Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, or Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code is being asserted at this time against any defendant.”
Markle says that language is included in the petition, because Robinson has not yet filed a complaint about her treatment at the firms with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with the Texas Commission on Human Rights. He says Robinson did not file those because she had hoped to settle with Laminack without filing suit. However, she is now considering filing a complaint with one or both of the agencies, he says.
Laminack is a leading lawyer in fen-phen litigation. In 2004, Laminack, Pirtle and O’Quinn won a $1 billion verdict, including $900 million in punitive damages, in a fen-phen suit in state district court in Beaumont. Defendant pharmaceutical company Wyeth, based in Madison, N.J., appealed the $1.01 billion judgment signed by 172nd District Judge Donald Floyd. But in 2007, the parties asked Beaumont’s 9th Court of Appeals to set aside the May 2004 judgment “without regard to the merits” and remand it to the trial court for settlement.
O’Quinn, Laminack settled its fen-phen docket with Wyeth as part of the settlement in the Beaumont suit.
Around the time of the settlement, Wyeth announced in a 10-k filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had “reached an agreement in principle with the law firm representing the Coffey/Cappel plaintiffs to settle the claims of all of that firm’s diet-drug clients.” [ See “$1 Billion Fen-Phen Case Settles Before Appellate Oral Arguments,” Texas Lawyer, April 16, 2007, page 1.