Attorneys for McClenny Moseley & Associates appeared in a New Orleans courtroom Wednesday to explain why they claimed to represent a homeowner who says she didn’t hire the law firm, but did sign some paperwork handed to her by a restoration contractor.
Magistrate Judge Michael North ordered both MMA founding partner Zach Moseley and Louisiana office manager William R. Huye III to appear personally before him after an insurance defense attorney accused the law firm of working with contractors to sign up new clients. On Wednesday, North ordered the law firm to pay attorney fees to attorneys who were forced to contend with a duplicate lawsuit it filed, according to a local news report. It was the third time a Louisiana federal judge has sanctioned McClenny Moseley.
In his order scheduling the hearing, North said “the court expects Huye and Mosely to be fully informed and conversant in every salient detail surrounding its representation of plaintiff both pre-suit and in connectionwith Case No. 22-cv-4927.”
That case number refers to a lawsuit that MMA filed Dec. 4 on behalf of “Trichia” Franatovich, even though another law firm had already filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tricia Franatovich (the correct spelling) for the same hurricane damage.
The US District Court for Eastern Louisiana scheduled the hearing after Matthew Monson, a New Orleans defense attorney who represents the insurer named in both lawsuits, filed a lengthy motion accusing MMA of soliciting clients by working with restoration contractors who walked door to door in neighborhoods damaged by Hurricane Ida.
Two federal judges for the Western Louisiana district have sanctioned the MMA law firm for similar duplicate filings.
Franatovich said in a Jan. 27 letter to the court that she never asked McClenny Moseley to represent her. She said a salesman named Brandon with Apex Roofing Co. knocked on her door last April after he spotted a blue tarp on her roof. She said she signed paperwork authorizing the company to repair the damage after telling Brandon that she had already hired a law firm.
Monson said in his filing that MMA uses any insurance settlement checks it receives to pay its own fees and then sends the rest to Apex to cover its costs. MMA drew the ire of federal judges by filing more than 1,600 hurricane claims in the Western District of Louisiana over a four-day period last year, many of which duplicated other filings or contained blatant fact errors.
Monson alleges the mistakes are generated by a mass marketing campaign that MMA uses by working with an online marketing company called Velawcity, which sends text messages to potential clients.
In a response to Monson’s pleading filed Tuesday, Huye acknowledges “it made some mistakes in this matter as it relates to the dual representation of plaintiff,” but also said Monson’s filing was “deliberately misleading” and is part of a “chronic pattern of personal attacks.”
Huye included in his pleading a copy of a LinkedIn post where Monson announced the Feb. 1 hearing and says he “expects a full courtroom.”
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time Mr. Monson has attempted to turn a court hearing into a circus for his own person gain; and it likely will not be his last,” the filing says.
The response does not mention Velawcity or the alleged marketing effort, but accuses Monson of participating in a scheme to help Allied Trust Insurance Co. dodge legitimate damage claims.
During the hearing, however, North ordered MMA to pay attorney fees to the lawyers representing Franatovich and her insurer, Allied Trust, according to a report by nola.com, a local news service. That would mark the second time that a federal judge ordered MMA to pay Monson’s fees. The judge also ordered MMA to reimburse Franatovich for any work hours she missed to attend the hearing, Nola reported.
As the Claims Journal previously reported, two US District Court judges in the Western Louisiana district have also ordered MMA to pay attorney fees for Allied Trust and other insurance carriers that were forced to respond to its duplicate lawsuits.
Top photo: Men cover a roof with tarps, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, a week after Hurricane Ida swept through the area. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)
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