The Louisiana Supreme Court appointed an attorney to take control of the “multitude of hurricane and storm-related” lawsuits filed in state courts by McClenny Moseley and Associates.
In an order posted online Thursday, the high court named Edward J. Walters Jr., with Walters, Papillion, Thomas and Cullens, as special trustee. He is tasked with compiling a list of attorneys “in good standing” and prepared to assume representation of former MMA clients and “facilitating the return or surrender of client files to the clients’ new counsel.” He is also directed to contact former MMA clients to determine if they have retained new representation and if not, refer them to the list of attorneys who are available to help them.
The Supreme Court on May 10 placed a stay on all of the hurricane-damage lawsuits filed by MMA in state courts. The law firm conducted a massive robo-texting and email campaign to sign up clients and filed thousands of lawsuits in federal courts, many of them against the wrong insurer and often on behalf of homeowners who were already represented by other attorneys.
The May 10 order directed the chief judge for each state court to compile a list of all hurricane and storm-related lawsuits filed by MMA within 20 days and submit the case names and docket numbers to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The office in March suspended the law license of MMA’s managing partner in New Orleans, William R. Huye III, and is conducting an investigation that may lead to further sanctions.
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner James Donelon fined MMA $2 million for what he called an “insurance fraud scheme.” Federal judges in both theEastern and Western Louisiana districts have also sanctioned the firm and its lawyers.
New Orleans insurance defense attorney Matthew Monson, whose personal investigation prompted the federal courts to investigate MMA’s mass filings, applauded the appointment of Walters in a LinkedIn post.
“Mr. Walters is a well known and respected attorney who will make sure the victims of MMA’s bad behavior have access to proper legal representation,” he said.
The Supreme Court’s order states specifically that Walters will not have an attorney-client relationship with former MMA clients.
Monson said many of the MMA’s former clients have likely lost an opportunity to pursue lawsuits against their insurers because Louisiana’s two-year prescription period for property damage claims has expired.
Monson said he personally compiled a list of 25 lawsuits that MMA filed against the wrong insurer that can no longer be filed against the correct carrier because the statute of limitations has passed. During an April 26 hearing before Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay, an attorney who represents State Farm says he knows of 78 other lawsuits that were incorrectly filed against the carrier. Monson said if those claims were for damage caused by Hurricane Laura — which struck the Louisiana coast in August 2020 — those cases cannot be refiled.
Monson said the only recourse for claimants who missed out because of MMA’s incompentence will be a malpractice suit. He said a lot of money is at stake. The 25 lawsuits that he knows were filed against the wrong insurer claimed more than $1.8 million in damage, he said.
Top photo: A mobile home is destroyed by a fallen tree, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Westlake, La., as clean up efforts continue following Hurricane Laura. (Kirk Meche/American Press via AP)
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