John Klevenhagen III and R. Keith Morris III and their Houston-based firm failed to file an “adequate” medical expert report in a wrongful death suit, so a judge dismissed it, a Cypress woman alleges in a $2 million lawsuit filed on July 18.
“To add insult to injury,” plaintiff Gloria Cegielski alleges, Klevenhagen and Morris then “successfully removed” her as administrator of her sister’s estate in an effort to prevent the estate from bringing a malpractice suit against them and their firm.
“After the lawyers suspected a malpractice action, they successfully removed Gloria as the administratix of Mary Ann’s estate in hopes that the statute of limitations would run before a new administratrix would take her place,” Cegielski alleges in the petition.
Cegielski hired Klevenhagen, Morris and their firm Jones Morris Klevenhagen to file a wrongful death suit in 2011 on behalf of the estate of her late sister, Mary Ann Baker, who died in a Houston hospital.
Neither Morris nor Klevenhagen immediately returned a telephone message left at their firm.
Cegielski brings negligence and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action against the defendants and alleges they violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act [DTPA]. She seeks more than $2 million from the defendants consisting of actual and punitive damages, treble and mental anguish damages under the DTPA, and attorney fees. She filed Cegielski v. Jones Morris Klevenhagen in the 295th District Court in Harris County.
Cegielski alleges she hired Morris and the firm to do estate work, and subsequently hired Morris, Klevenhagen and the firm for a wrongful death case, after Morris and Klevenhagen represented to her they had “extensive experience in handling medical malpractice/wrongful death cases.
“Unfortunately, the lawyers had little to no experience handling medical malpractice/wrongful death cases,” Cegielski alleges in the petition.
“I think they saw big numbers and wanted to keep the case in-house,” said plaintiffs lawyer Lance Kassab, a partner in The Kassab Law firm of Houston.
Cegielski alleges in the petition that the defendants named 22 medical defendants in the wrongful death suit they filed on behalf of her sister’s estate, but failed to file the proper medical expert report necessary under Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code to show that the medical defendants “fell below the standard of case for their respective specialty.
“The lawyers’ malfeasance in handling the underlying case proximately caused plaintiffs’ meritorious wrongful death case to be summarily dismissed,” she alleges.
In what she alleges is an “even more egregious” action, the defendants tried to force her to close the estate to prevent a malpractice suit against them. She alleges that when she refused to close the estate, Morris and the firm withdrew from representing it and “allowed the court” to remove Cegielski as administrator.
She alleges that she recently obtained an emergency reinstatement that allowed her to file Cegielski v. Jones Morris Klevenhagen.
Cegielski alleges that the lawyers’ website is “robust with statements of confidence” in their services, but the lawyers’ failure to file the expert report led to the “worst possible outcome.
“This is not ‘honesty and integrity,’” Cegielski alleges in reference to information on the firm’s website. “This is negligence turned deceit.”