With a hard-charging reputation for winning millions in damages for plaintiffs in civil cases, Tony Buzbee isn’t often fired once he’s agreed to represent a client.
But that’s exactly what Erika Morrison decided to do last week — just days after hiring the high-profile Houston attorney to handle a wrongful death suit involving her husband who was killed in an October oil rig explosion.
And the abrupt termination has prompted Buzbee to sue a family friend of Morrison’s and three unnamed Louisiana attorneys in a Houston state district court alleging they all interfered with his attorney contract in the case, one Buzbee alleges could have “easily” earned him $10 million in fees.
According to Buzbee’s petition in Buzbee v. Cox, Tim Morrison was killed on Oct. 15 while working on an oil and gas storage rig in Louisiana. Erika Morrison wanted to meet with Buzbee about her husband’s death and the lawyer agreed to meet Morrison at his Houston residence on Nov. 5 to discuss the case.
After an hourlong meeting, Morrison hired Buzbee and directed him to file a petition in the case the following day, Nov. 6. Buzbee and his firm complied by filing a wrongful death action against two Houston companies.
But later that same afternoon after the case had been filed, Morrison informed Buzbee she wanted to put the case “on hold” because family friend Brad Cox wanted to introduce her to three other lawyers from Louisiana. Morrison allegedly terminated the contract she had with Buzbee via email without cause.
After Morrison terminated her contract with Buzbee, the Houston Chronicle reported that Buzbee had apparently sued the wrong companies in Morrison’s case — one company didn’t seem to exist and another allegedly had no connection to the rig or the rig’s owner.
In an interview, Buzbee explained that he relied on Tim Morrison’s coworkers and one official in Louisiana before filing the wrongful death case against the two defendants.
“The client was insistent on getting a case on file ASAP, which we did. It has been reported that the wrong defendants were sued, which, as you know, happens in this business,” Buzbee said. “We would have corrected that immediately, but in the interim, we were terminated.”
Jack Jamison, a Dallas solo practitioner who said he has represented the Morrison family for years, said Buzbee’s suit is “absolutely groundless.”
“There’s plenty of reason to fire Buzbee — they sued the wrong defendants,” Jamison said.
Jamison said Cox was Tim Morrison’s best friend and she wanted to consult with him before hiring Buzbee and his firm.
“She didn’t want to do it. She tried to contact Brad Cox and was unable to reach him,” Jamison said, who alleges Morrison felt pressured to sign the contract with Buzbee. “Brad Cox had nothing to do with that termination. He didn’t even know about it.”
“And we don’t know what cause the explosion is,” Jamison added. “There was no reason to sue anybody yet.”
However, Buzbee notes that in Texas, clients can fire the attorneys for any time for any reason, but the attorney can still collect his fee if fired without cause.
“It is frustrating to me because this woman and her sister came to my house, and wanted to sign right away and wanted a lawsuit filed right away. Apparently immediately after she left, some man named Brad Cox, who purportedly is the deceased’s friend, told her she shouldn’t have signed and that he had a meeting planned with other lawyers for her the next day. That’s really all we know,” Buzbee said.
“We think the law is pretty clear in our favor, but we don’t want to do anything to damage Mrs. Morrison’s case,” Buzbee said.
“She has been through enough; but, at the same time, I’m not going to have a Louisiana lawyer come over to Houston and steal cases from me,” he added. “I think anyone would agree that the best chance she and her children have for a successful result in her case is with my firm. My record speaks for itself.”