A plaintiff has filed a legal malpractice suit against her former attorneys and their firm.
In her July 13 petition in Idnani v. Tidwell, et al., plaintiff Renu Idnani alleges she retained then-Kermit lawyer Scott M. Tidwell in 2008 to represent her in a personal-injury suit.
In addition to practicing with Tidwell & Tidwell, in 2008 Scott Tidwell was elected Winkler County attorney. On Oct. 13, 2011, a jury convicted Tidwell of two felony counts of misuse of official information, two felony retaliation counts, and two misdemeanor counts of official oppression. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation, according to the judgments in State of Texas v. Scott Tidwell.
In a Jan. 30 interlocutory order of suspension, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals suspended Scott Tidwell from the practice of law for 10 years, ordering him to inform every client and every court where he had a matter pending that he was suspended.
In her petition, Idnani alleges Scott Tidwell failed to inform her of his convictions and of his suspension from the practice of law.
But Scott Tidwell says he did inform Idnani of his criminal convictions and suspension. “And by then my dad had taken over handling the case. And she was informed and given the chance to get another attorney. And she was dead set on not losing her trial date.”
In her petition, filed in a Midland County state district court, Idnani alleges that despite “having his license to practice law suspended, Scott Tidwell was in the courtroom, actively participating in trial strategy. He was pretending to represent Plaintiff and giving advise [sic] to his 81-year-old father, who was very hard of hearing. At one point in time Scott Tidwell even asked the court: ‘Can we have just a second, Your Honor?’ “
“I think my dad and I were standing in the back of the courtroom. The judge said something, and I said, ‘If you’d give us just a second,’ ” Scott Tidwell says of Idnani’s allegation. “ I sat in the courtroom, and whenever he needed something, I’d get something for him. But she [Idnani] sat at the counsel table with my dad.”
Idnani also alleges the defendants — Scott Tidwell, his father Jack Q. Tidwell and the firm Tidwell & Tidwell — were “wholly unprepared to try the case” and failed to take depositions or investigate her personal-injury suit before a March 6 jury trial in Midland County Court-at-Law No. 2, which resulted in an “adverse jury verdict and judgment.”
“They signed up a case and essentially did nothing for six years. They interviewed no witnesses; they didn’t go to the location where the incident happened. They didn’t do any discovery beyond a request for disclosure,” alleges Austin solo James Twombly, who represents Idnani. “It was a complete breach of fiduciary duty.”
Idnani’s causes of action include legal malpractice, gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, deceptive trade practices and fraud against all of the defendants.
Scott Tidwell denies the allegations in Idnani. “I’m not an attorney anymore,” he says. The personal-injury suit in which he represented Idnani “was a slip-and-fall case that was very difficult to win. She thinks she should have won, and she didn’t.”
He says he did not act as an attorney in Idnani’s personal-injury suit, which went to trial months after he was suspended from the practice of law.
Marvin Moore, judge of County Court-at-Law No. 2 in Midland County who presided over Idnani’s personal-injury trial, says he was aware that Scott Tidwell had been suspended from the practice of law at the time of Idnani’s PI trial and that Scott Tidwell did not participate as an attorney at trial.
“He didn’t do anything in terms of representing those folks in trial, and I was satisfied he didn’t do anything as far as appearing in court representing his clients,” Moore says.
Denis Dennis, a partner in Odessa’s Kelly, Morgan, Dennis, Corzine & Hansen who represents Scott Tidwell in his Bar disciplinary case, says Tidwell’s appeal of his license suspension is pending before the Texas Supreme Court.
Dennis says Tidwell is challenging whether the Bar properly used the compulsory disciplinary process — a fast-track disciplinary system used when a lawyer is convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude.”
The Board of Disciplinary Appeals “determined the misuse of official material is a crime of moral turpitude,” Dennis says. “And there’s no legal precedent for that. There’s never been a case on that. It’s a case of first impression.”
Jack Q. Tidwell did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Mike McKinney, a partner in Midland’s McKinney & Tighe who represents the defendants, also did not return a call.