A Montgomery County woman filed a lawsuit against Houston lawyer Hugh J. “Pete” Plummer and his firm, Plummer & Farmer, alleging they paid themselves a $20,000 contingency fee from an $85,000 settlement without a signed contract.
Plaintiff Pearl Ostrewich alleges in the Jan. 21 petition she filed in the 281st District Court in Harris County that the defendants “disbursed $20,000 to themselves as attorney’s fees” without her “authorization, approval, or notice.”
Defendant Hugh J. “Pete” Plummer said he has correspondence giving him authority to pursue the plaintiff’s claim, after his attorney son, Hugh Jones Plummer Jr., referred Ostrewich to him.
“I had their consent to pursue that claim,” Pete Plummer said, adding, “I probably could have done a better job in making sure they signed off on a contract.”
Hugh Plummer, of Plummer Law Firm of Houston, declined comment on Ostrewich’s allegations because she is a former client and he has not read the petition. However, Hugh Plummer said he “can’t imagine a scenario” where his father or his father’s firm would “misappropriate funds.”
“I find this highly suspect,” Hugh Plummer said in reference to the petition.
Ostrewich brings breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conversion and negligence per se causes of action against the defendants in Pearl Ostrewich v. Hugh J. (Pete) Plummer. She also alleges they violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice Act, the Theft Liability Act, and the misapplication of fiduciary property section of the Texas Penal Code. She seeks an accounting of the settlement money and a declaratory judgment that she and the defendants never had a written contingency fee agreement, so they are not entitled to a contingency fee interest.
She seeks less than $100,000 in monetary relief, consisting of unspecified actual and punitive damages, additional damages of up to $1,000, treble damages under the DTPA, mental anguish damages, fee forfeiture, interest and attorney fees.
As Ostrewich alleges in the petition, she retained Hugh Plummer and his firm, Plummer Law Firm of Houston, to represent her in her claims stemming from an automobile accident that happened on Sept. 22, 2012. She alleges Hugh Plummer and Plummer Law Firm “subsequently terminated their representation of Plaintiff because of a conflict of interest,” but Pete Plummer and Plummer & Farmer “then undertook representation of Plaintiff without executing a written fee agreement.”
Ostrewich alleges that her “underlying claims” were settled but defendants claim a one-third contingency fee interest in the $85,000 settlement, which is held in the defendants’ trust account.
“Plaintiff has disputed Defendants’ contingency fee claim since the first time Defendants asserted it,” Ostrewich alleges in the petition.
Plaintiff’s attorney Brett Wagner, a partner in Doherty [star symbol] Wagner of Houston, did not return a telephone message.