The Largest Personal Injury Firm in Texas. Serving Clients Nationwide.
Corpus Christi 361-985-0600 San Antonio 210-656-1000 Nationwide Toll Free 888-314-9945
Contact us 24/7 Contact us 24/7

San Antonio Law Firm Accused of Barratry

According to the KSAT, two San Antonio law firms are set to meet in court in connection to barratry allegations.

Two Prominent San Antonio Firms to Meet in Court

  • With new laws on the state’s books regarding the act of barratry less than a year old, Texas is already seeing some sparks fly.
  • Two prominent San Antonio firms will actually meet in court over the matter of plaintiffs claiming they were victims of barratry by a San Antonio law firm.
  • Barratry, also known as case running or ambulance chasing, is the act of illegally soliciting business from victims. Oftentimes the lawyer isn’t the one committing the act, as they will work with non-lawyers, often paying them, to do the solicitation on their behalf.
  • The law promises a $10,000 collection plus legal fees and other damages to any victim who successfully proves they were illegally solicited.

A Former Coworker Sues San Antonio Law Firm

  • One of the plaintiffs in the suit, Debbie Suarez, actually worked for the defendant’s law firm.
  • The former employee claims she was asked by the managing attorney to go solicit a client.
  • Another victim claims that, after she was in a car accident, the mechanic at her body shop advised her to contact the same firm.
Defendant Firm Denies Allegations
  • For their part, the accused firm is claiming innocence. They point to the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent on advertising and an otherwise spotless legal career.
  • One angle they are looking to draw attention to is the idea that Ms. Suarez is a disgruntled former employee looking to hurt their reputation and collect an easy check.
  • The judge has not ruled yet on this case.
Contact an Experienced Barratry Attorney

A lawyer, service provider, or health care provider who is willing to break the law by committing a felony or misdemeanor is also willing to ruin your case or take your money. Whether your case has settled or not, contact Thomas J. Henry to understand your legal rights. We represent clients/victims all over the country.

New Texas Barratry Law Passed

The new barratry law passed in Texas is bad news for ambulance chasers. Barratry, also known as ambulance chasing and case running, is a form of illegal solicitation. It has always been a felony in the state of Texas, but the new barratry law now creates a civil cause of action: this means victims of illegal case solicitation who do not sign a contract can now sue for up to $10,000 plus attorneys fees.

S.B. 1716

  • Signed by Gov. Rick Perry May 19, 2011
  • Goes into effect September 1, 2011
  • Bill would create a $10,000 civil penalty for violating barratry laws

Important Sections

SECTION 2.  Subchapter C, Chapter 82, Government Code, is amended by adding Section 82.0651 to read as follows:

For Those Who Signed a Contract

(a)  A client may bring an action to void a contract for legal services that was procured as a result of conduct violating the laws of this state or the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Texas regarding barratry by attorneys or other persons. (b)  A client who prevails in an action under Subsection (a) shall recover from any person who committed barratry:

  1. all fees and expenses paid to that person under the contract;
  2. the balance of any fees and expenses paid to any other person under the contract, after deducting fees and expenses awarded based on a quantum meruit theory as provided by Section 82.065(c);
  3. actual damages caused by the prohibited conduct; and
  4. reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees.

For those Who Did Not sign a Contract

(c) A person who was solicited by conduct violating the laws of this state or the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Texas regarding barratry by attorneys or other persons, but who did not enter into a contract as a result of that conduct, may file a civil action against any person who committed barratry. (d) A person who prevails in an action under Subsection (c) shall recover from each person who engaged in barratry:

  1. a penalty in the amount of $10,000;
  2. actual damages caused by the prohibited conduct; and
  3. reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees.
A Breakdown of the Bill
  • The current law provides for voiding only contingent-fee contracts, but S.B.1716 allows for voiding of any type of contract for legal services.
  • If you are illegally approached by a lawyer and you sign a representation contract, you can sue to void the contract and for damages and attorney’s fees.
  • If you are illegally approached by a lawyer and you do not sign a representation contract, you can sue for the $10,000 civil penalty, plus damages and attorney’s fees.
Contact an Experienced Barratry Attorney

A lawyer, service provider, or health care provider who is willing to break the law by committing a felony or misdemeanor is also willing to ruin your case or take your money. Whether your case has settled or not, contact Thomas J. Henry to understand your legal rights.

Barratry: Case Runners’ Tactics

Unethical attorneys use an array of sources to illegally acquire cases including telemarketers, hospital employees, police officers, funeral home personnel, news reporters, clergy . . . and the list goes on. Ambulance chasers are able to make millions of dollars through this network of referral sources. Case runners often have contacts that reach across several continents and use those contacts to hustle cases ranging from local car accidents to international airplane crashes.

Case Runners

These illegal solicitors refer accident victims to personal injury lawyers in exchange for large sums of money. In return for the case runner’s efforts, attorneys advance these individuals money for signing up a case and/or award them substantial portions of fees once a case is resolved. The illegal solicitor keeps a portion of this money and uses the rest to pay his or her network of contacts who hustled the case. Some ambulance chasers maintain a financial interest in these cases even after they are referred out to a law firm. This practice is in direct violation of Rule 5.04 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits lawyers from sharing fees with non-lawyers.

Non-Lawyers

Non-attorneys regularly misrepresent their attorney status to clients in order to persuade clients to sign a contract for representation then refer the cases out to actual attorneys in return for a sizeable fee.

This could even take the form of a non-attorney being represented as a “partner” in a firm with other attorneys. A person is prohibited from practicing law in the state of Texas unless he or she is a member of the State Bar. Under the Texas Government Code, law practice is defined as:

[T]he preparation of a pleading or other document incident to an action or special proceeding or the management of the action or proceeding on behalf of a client before a judge in court as well as a service rendered out of court, including the giving of advice or the rendering of any service requiring the use of legal skill or knowledge, such as preparing a will, contract, or other instrument, the legal effect of which under the facts and conclusions involved must be carefully determined.

Texas courts allow attorneys who are not members of the State Bar of Texas to practice law in the state in limited circumstances. As enumerated in the Texas Government Code, the Texas Supreme Court may promulgate rules outlining the process for limited practice of law by attorneys licensed in another jurisdiction.

Individual attorneys who work alongside a non-lawyer can be held professionally responsible under Rule 5.4 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which states that a lawyer shall not share fees with a non-lawyer, and a lawyer shall not form a partnership with a non-lawyer to practice law.

Watch Out!

Attorneys who accept cases from illegal case runners could face criminal charges! Under the Texas Penal Code Section 38.12(b)(3), it is a third degree felony for a professional to knowing accept employment within the scope of his or her professional license that results from illegal solicitation. A general contract signed by the referring attorney stating that the case was not illegally run is not adequate when all the signs of illegal solicitation are present and likely will not suffice to establish a reasonable inquiry.

A History of Barratry in Texas

Most attorneys are familiar with barratry and know that illegal solicitation is a third degree felony in Texas. However, Texas attorneys may not know that the legal profession’s resistance to barratry has a long history. References to barratry reach as far back as Greek and Roman times when the predecessors of modern-day attorneys were required to “demonstrate a ‘personal connection’ to a litigant before speaking on his behalf” and continue throughout the history of the Middle Ages in England. During the thirteenth century in England, Inns of Court trained affluent young men to practice law as a public service. Since these wealthy young men did not need an income, they practiced law for the betterment of their community and were prohibited from charging fees at all.

Today, most lawyers are not in a position to work for free. Thus, barratry is even more of a threat to the well-being and integrity of the legal profession due to the widespread networks of unethical lawyers and non-lawyers who work in concert to take clients away from honest, hard working lawyers and victimize clients by paying unnecessary expenses and fees for illegal solicitation.

Barratry in Texas

Since the 1800s Texas lawmakers have worked to end illegal solicitation, and the law has undergone multiple updates and revisions. In 1876, the legislature passed its first statute criminalizing barratry. The 1876 statute made it unlawful for any person to willfully instigate or encourage litigation, in which that person had no interest, with the intent to harass the defendant or to bring a false suit with the intent to harass the defendant. In 1901, the statute was amended for the purpose of also making it illegal to stir up litigation by soliciting employment or advancing money to prospective clients to procure employment. In the early years of the statute, attorneys were the only professionals that were forbidden to solicit employment. However, the current statute criminalizes solicitation by a lawyer or a layman for the purpose of obtaining employment for economic gain.

Updated Barratry Statute

Texas’s barratry statute was most recently updated under House Bill No. 148 in 2009 and went into effect on September 1 of the same year. Under the amended Texas Penal Code §38.12(d):

A person commits an offense if the person: is an attorney, chiropractor, physician, surgeon, or private investigator . . . and with the intent to obtain professional employment for the person or for another, provides or knowingly permits to be provided to an individual who has not sought the person’s employment, legal representation, advice, or care a written communication or a solicitation, including a solicitation in person or by telephone.

The revisions expanded the scope of the former Texas Penal Code Section 38.12(d). While the former law only applied to written solicitations, the new revisions state that solicitation in person and by telephone are also prohibited. While the old statute disallowed written communications to be sent to potential clients, the new statute was expanded to disallow any communications that are provided to the potential client, since not all forms of communication are done through paper means. Texas Penal Code §38.12(d)(2)(A), also applies to communications and solicitations that take place within thirty one days after the date on which the accident or disaster occurred.

It is a third degree felony in Texas when attorneys pay or offer to pay money to a prospective client to gain employment for economic benefit or to pay another person to do the same. A person also commits a third degree felony when he or she knowingly accepts employment within the scope of a person’s license for when the employment resulted from felonious solicitation.

Loading...
Do you really want to end conversation?
chat-icon Live chat
avatar Waiting