This post has a little something for everyone as the media frenzy on BP’s little mess is exceeded only by the feeding frenzy of the legal profession as seemingly every ambulance chasing lawyer in the nation has descended upon the Gulf Coast like a swarm of locusts. And we have some video for those folks that are wondering what the heck Jefferson Parish Council at large members John Young and Tom Capella are doing these days besides suing the blogosphere as it appears they are hunting a new washed up celebrity to pal around with as their boy Steven Seagal is currently out of the picture (due to recent accusations involving making a staffer his sex slave during filming of reality TeeVee show). Well, either that or they are cuddling up with the managing partner of Wendell Gautheir’s old firm, John Houghtaling, hoping they can finagle a redo of the Pan AM Flight 759 crash from 1982 when then Kenner mayor Aaron Broussard managed to steer the boys at the Gautheir firm the lion’s share of the after crash legal work. Lets begin with this Channel 4 video of a washed up Kevin Costner, the gang from Jefferson Parish and Costner’s contraption which he claims will cure the slick:
So with much of the gang in Jefferson Parish accounted for let’s shift over to New Orleans City Business and Ben Myers who covered the attorney problem a bit over a week ago:
There is growing concern that out-of-state attorneys are improperly soliciting workers who were on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig when it exploded April 20 and fishermen who are working to contain the resulting leak.
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has received two formal written complaints and an “escalating” number of informal complaints, said Chief Disciplinary Counsel Charles Plattsmier. Investigators are fanning out across the state to determine whether the complaints are credible.
So far, one of the formal complaints has been referred to the attorney’s home state authorities for disciplinary measures. The alleged victim was on the sunken rig and lives in northern Louisiana, Plattsmier said. He declined to reveal the attorney’s name, home state or further details of the case, citing Supreme Court confidentiality rules.
There are several unconfirmed reports of “runners,” or unlicensed middlemen soliciting business on behalf of attorneys, Plattsmier said. The practice is a felony in Louisiana and could subject violators to up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
We are fairly familar with Mr Plattsmier here at Slabbed as his office is best known for not doing much except collecting a paycheck so banging on unethical ambulance chasers will no doubt be good for PR with the general public that does not know better (The stories I could tell on Tuppy). That said he does point out a real problem with out of state lawyers and it is there we go next.
Part of the charm of Slabbed is that we have sources in both very high places and very low places. With that in mind and given that I am a Hancock County boy allow me to introduce our readers to attorneys Thomas Discon and Robert Lansden, Louisiana boys, who reportedly drove around the lower Hancock County in a pickup truck with an ad on the tail gate trying to sign up local commercial fishermen as clients. They even had a novel approach as attorney Lansden was evidently a boat captain in a prior life, so he went around introducing himself as Captain Lansden with his sidekick handing out copies of a contract for legal services. (You gave one to the wrong boat Captain there Cap 😉 ) I thought it was a hoot so I’ve uploaded it to Scribd for everyone to enjoy:
[scribd id=31443073 key=key-2fxg04du1i22jon791kg mode=list]
No doubt our longer time readers are scratching their heads wondering what the heck I’m doing banging on trial lawyers and that is a fair question. The answer is I’m not but I am highlighting Discon and Lansden to make a point: A smart consumer has to dig past the throwaway lines on a TeeVee ad and do some serious research before hiring a lawyer. Sadly most don’t and both consumer and the legal profession suffer as a result.
Just months ago I highlighted the D’Iberville firm of LoCoco and LoCoco getting their asses kicked by litigating an appraisal case they should have known they had no chance of winning (costing their client over 20K in court costs). Does it surprise anyone they are now Oil Spill experts? What about some of the first Tee Vee lawyers here on the coast Davis and
Emile, Feder, Crump who seemingly do everything from insurance litigation, suing Toyota, and Oil Spills to go along with having the ol’ law office periodically raided by the Feds. And then of course there is the grand daddy of them, Morris Bart who has been stinking up the airwaves for years trolling for clients with his quick check ads? And of course there are many others cut from that cloth. If there is a commonality among this group it is that insurers generally love to see their insureds hire them because it generally means they do not have to pay out as much. (and yes I actually had an insurance adjuster tell me that about Morris Bart in particular.)
So what is an impacted consumer to do besides reading Slabbed? Luckily for us our very good friend Amy Bach over at United Policyholders has a page up on this topic as it relates to insurance claims. The process with BP is similar to settling an insurance claim so lets visit with Amy and get some solid advice:
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
“I’ve filed a claim under my homeowners policy. I’ve met with adjusters from my company. A dispute has arisen. I’m getting frustrated. Do I need a lawyer?”
If you can communicate effectively in writing and in person with your insurer with confidence, polite aggression, and insistence on your rights, you may not need an attorney. If you are losing patience, feeling frustrated, angry or anxious, or are unsure about your rights, a qualified insurance attorney can help.
“Once I hire an attorney, should I let them to do all the talking to my insurer”?
Not necessarily. You can try having an attorney give you advice on your rights and continue to communicate with your insurer. If an aggressive attorney contacts your insurer early in the claims process, it may aggravate and prolong a dispute that you might have resolved yourself. However, if you’ve given it your best shot and the insurance company won’t treat you fairly, let a professional take over on your behalf. Once the insurance company has dug in its heels and you’ve hired an attorney, let the attorney have all communications with the insurance company. Most attorneys will insist on this and its for your own protection.
“Can I hire my family lawyer to represent me…the one who did my will last year?”
You can, but you shouldn’t. Your lawyer should be experienced in insurance coverage or bad faith litigation. Insurance companies generally hire very experienced insurance defense counsel to represent them and yours should be a worthy adversary. Insurance companies will assess the risk of not settling with you by considering the strength of your representative.
“How can I find the right lawyer?
Be an astute consumer, get referrals from friends, family members, or reputable attorneys who have personal contacts with an insurance specialist. Call your County Bar Association and ask for referrals for “Plaintiffs Insurance Coverage” or “Bad Faith Attorneys.” Interview potential candidates and ask for the name of a former client. Contact the former client and ask them to share their experience with you.
A lawsuit is a major undertaking but may be the most effective way to fairly resolve a major claim. The attorney you select should have your utmost confidence…and deserve it!
I am still of the opinion that it is too early to lawyer up. That said I’ll throw out some names of some of the lawyers we’ve seen do quality work during our time here on Slabbed for those thinking of hiring a Mississppi based attorney.
We must start our list with Nowdy’s “Queen of the Slabbed” Judy Guice who was part of the Corban legal team. Judy is a fine lawyer with special talents for doing discovery work which takes tenacity and determination, especially when dealing with rogue judges like our own Robert Walker. Judy teamed up with the good people at Corban Gunn for the insurance litigation and she picked some fine lawyers to associate with there.
We can’t leave out the Law Call krewe over at Lumpkin Reeves as I’ve heard some very good things about them guys from other lawyers whose opinions I respect. We don’t hold the Tee Vee show against you folks since you educate instead of sell. (Maggio better tighten up though. 😉 )
Earl Denham is a great lawyer over in Ocean Springs whose firm we profiled several times here on Slabbed as his folks beclowned State Farm lawyers Scot Spragins and Lucky Tucker in Kuehn. Our posts on the subject tickled someone’s fancy at a popular search engine as our topic Kuehn received a good bit of site traffic from the search string “Laurel and Hardy” and “another fine mess” for several months late last year. Whoring for State Farm does has its drawbacks on occasion as Spragins and Tucker can no doubt attest.
Over in Florida, another lawyer that is also good friend to this blog, Chip Merlin has announced he is taking spill cases in association with a law firm in northwest Florida. Chip has also written extensively lately on the spill, the out of control ambulance chasing and the special need for accountants in the unfolding litgation on his blog. Between Nowdy and I we visit Chip’s blog everyday. I especially liked that accountant post.
Finally there is Hiram Eastland who affiliated with Robert Kennedy Jr and others to work the oil spill. I wrote a tongue in cheek post on that affiliation a few weeks back but environmental law is all Kennedy’s firm does. Hiram is better known as a gifted lawyer that represented former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on appeal.
I am really not familar enough with the work of any of the lawyers in Bay-Waveland beyond Brehm Bell, who does fine work representing consumers against insurers but I don’t know if he is taking any of these cases as his plate is very full doing Youth Court besides his regular practice so I can make no recommendations to the people there beyond saying caveat emptor.
Once we have a better picture of the lay of the litigation land in NOLA metro we’ll be back with another post and recommendations for our readers over there.