A former client of Porter Hedges filed a malpractice suit against the Houston-based firm and two of its lawyers on March 22 alleging they mishandled some litigation and overcharged him for the work.
Robert Reedy, Porter Hedges managing partner, says, "We strongly deny the allegations and I’ll note that he is acting pro se. I’ll also tell you this is not the first case he has [filed]against lawyers he’s hired."
According to the petition, filed in the 269th District Court in Harris County, Robert Primo, a dentist in Houston, alleges Porter Hedges and the two lawyers "ignored" a settlement offer from an insurance company that would have paid most of about $200,000 in legal fees for some litigation, and instead billed another $200,000 in fees to seek indemnity from third-party defendant Briar Green Condominium Association. Eventually, Primo won at trial against Briar Green, he alleges in the petition, but the final judgment only covered about a fifth of his attorney fees.
"[T]he final judgment in favor of Dr. Primo was for $100,194.89 which represents 18.51% from the $541,386.84 incurred by Dr. Primo, the majority of which was billed by Porter Hedges. This dismal recovery was greatly contributed by Porter Hedges’ acts and omissions alleged herein," Primo alleges in the petition.
The defendants in Robert Primo v. Porter Hedges LLP, et al. are the firm, partner John Alexander Irvine and associate Richard Blake Runions.
Irvine says, "We strongly deny all of his claims and his allegations of any misconduct on our part. Beyond that I have no comment."
Runions did not return a telephone message.
Primo brings legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and fraud in the inducement causes of action against the defendants and alleges they violated the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. He seeks "disgorgement of the fees billed by Porter Hedges" and unspecified punitive damages.
"They ought to settle this before it gets really ugly," Primo says.
In the petition, Primo alleges he hired the defendants to defend him in Travelers Casualty and Surety Company v. Robert Primo v. Briar Green Condominium Association et al., filed in 2009 in Harris County.
On Nov. 2, 2010, Primo alleges, Travelers non-suited him as a defendant, but he alleges Porter Hedges "continued to litigate" against Briar Green for breach of contract to provide indemnity.
Primo alleges that on the advice of Porter Hedges, he non-suited all parties in Travelers and filed a new suit, Robert Primo v. Briar Green Condominium Association. However, Primo alleges Porter Hedges withdrew from representation on April 13, 2012.
On May 22, 2012, Primo alleges he hired Houston solo practitioner Scott Rothenberg to represent him in Primo v. Briar Green. After a trial in October 2012, Primo alleges in the petition, he secured the final judgment on Nov. 30, 2012.
Primo and Rothenberg are currently involved in litigation over fees arising from that case.
On Nov. 16, 2012, Rothenberg filed Scott Rothenberg v. Robert Primo in the 133rd District Court in Harris County, alleging Primo owes him $57,999.63 in unpaid fees.
In an answer and counterclaim filed on Dec. 17, 2012, Primo denies the claim and brings counterclaims of legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud against Rothenberg. He alleges Rothenberg "failed to adequately respond to written discovery requests, failed to conduct adequate discovery of witnesses, failed to disclose key witnesses, failed to communicate material facts to evaluation of a settlement offer and failed to adequately prepare for trial."
Rothenberg says the counterclaims are false.
"I’m livid that he filed the counterclaims that he did and when all the evidence comes out, he’s going to look like . . . someone who makes promises to pay and doesn’t pay," he says.