An analysis piece in the Houston Chronicle considers the implications of an arbitration panel’s ruling against a prominent Texas plaintiff’s lawyer.
A decision this week requiring Houston trial lawyer John O’Quinn to pay at least $35.7 million to former clients may be a harbinger of a legal trend — lawyer cannibalism.
“When I started suing other lawyers in 1981, no one else wanted to do it. But today, oh my God, everybody is competing for this business. They think it’s a gold mine to sue other lawyers. The cannibalism metaphor really works here,” said Randy Johnston, a Dallas legal malpractice lawyer.
O’Quinn was found to have overbilled his clients and breached his fiduciary duties in breast implant lawsuits, taking funds from class-action settlements unannounced and for improper purposes. Ted Frank at Overlawyered.com also cites the arbitration panel’s ruling — available in this post — to note that O’Quinn had also used $3 million of plaintiffs’ money to quietly pay for a “Baylor study” on breast implants, making the study seem like an independent venture.
An earlier Chronicle piece summarized O’Quinn’s record, noting he has made made millions in breast implant, tobacco and other mass tort litigation, and has been investigated for soliciting clients. His legal opponent in this case was another famed member of the plaintiff’s bar, Houston’s “King of Torts,” Joe Jamail, who represented the women. Our rooting at the outcome is therefore restrained.
Randy Johnston predicts more of this kind of thing.
When a lot of money changes hands there’s a group of lawyers chasing it. Whoever makes the money will get sued, whether it’s a doctor, car manufacturer or lawyer.
Hmmm. Perhaps a few multimillion-dollar awards will cause the plaintiff’s bar to rethink the excesses of litigation. Right?
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