Lance Christopher Kassab, a partner in Houston's The Kassab Law Firm. Courtesy photo

A South African citizen who was working in Texas but says he was deported in July is seeking up to $1 million from immigration firm Foster LLP of Houston and partner Jose Perez in a legal malpractice lawsuit alleging they mishandled his permanent resident visa application.

Warren Miller alleges in the petition he filed on Sept. 8 in state district court in Harris County that as a result of the defendants’ negligence and misconduct, he lost his job in the United States and had to take a much lower-paying job in the United Kingdom. He alleges he also had to put his house in Katy on the market and is obligated to pay for a leased car.

Miller, who is represented by plaintiffs attorney Lance Kassab of Kassab Law Firm of Houston, brings negligence and gross negligence causes of action against the defendants, and alternatively, negligent misrepresentation. He is seeking actual damages of more than $500,000, exemplary damages, and emotional distress damages “due to defendants’ gross negligence which resulted in him and his family being deported.”

Charles Foster, chairman of Foster, said the suit is “totally without merit.”

Foster said the firm obtained two extensions to Miller’s temporary work visa and because of that, he can work in the country until October 2018. Foster said Miller could not have been deported in July as a result of a 2016 denial of a permanent resident visa because it takes years to get scheduled for a deportation hearing.

“Just like everything else in that petition, it’s just an outlandish false statement,” Foster said.

Perez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Foster firm noted in a written statement that it is a matter of public record that Miller has “not been deported or removed” from the country.

Kassab did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

Miller alleges in the petition that his company, EPI, hired the Foster firm to help him obtain a nonimmigrant L-1A visa to allow him to work temporarily in the United States and, after three years, seek permanent resident status with an I-140 petition. EPI hired Miller to serve as the business development manager for the company’s new office in Houston, and he moved to the United States with his wife Sarah and 1-year-old daughter Willow. He alleges the job gave him the opportunity to live in the United States and earn a higher salary.

He alleges that the Foster lawyers represented to him that his I-140 petition to obtain permanent resident status “would be granted,” so he and his wife bought a house in Katy, leased vehicles and “planted their roots in Texas.”

On Feb. 11, 2015, the defendants filed a permanent resident visa application to classify him as a multinational manager or executive, but Miller alleges that application was denied on Nov. 29, 2016, because his lawyers made a “calculation error” in the amount of time he had worked for EPI in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

“In other words, the government denied Miller’s I-140 petition because defendants negligently failed to calculate the number of days Miller had been in the United States and therefore filed the petition eighteen days too early,” Miller alleges in the petition.

He said that had the defendants “exercised a proper degree of planning and diligence” and advised him on the need to remain employed outside the United States for additional time, he would have received the visa and he and his family would be permanent residents of the U.S.

“Instead, as a result of defendants’ negligence and misconduct, Miller and his family were deported to the United Kingdom on July 2, 2017,” he alleges, adding that he lost his $122,400-a-year job in the United States and now works for $30,000 per year.