Lawyer Sues Insurance Company

Fort Worth lawyers and those in Saginaw, North Richland Hills, Grapevine, and other places in Tarrant County need to keep up with lawyer news and insurance news. The American Bar Association ran an article on October 11, describing an attorney suing an insurance company.
The article tells us a jury trial was beginning for a Texas lawyer seeking $25 million in a tortious interference suit against an insurance company with which he formerly had dealings while representing plaintiffs in asbestos cases.
The lawyer contends that Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. set him up to face criminal prosecution, without appropriate basis, in order to conceal the involvement of two of its own claims processors in a $3 million extortion from him, reports Bloomberg in a lengthy article about the case. He argues that the insurer protected the two employees to preclude their telling regulators about a lack of reserved funds at the time of the scheme to cover asbestos-related claims.
In fact, the lawyer says in filings in the Houston state-court case, he was the victim of the scheme, which diverted to the claims processors some of his own attorney’s fees in silicosis cases for which he obtained $34 million in settlements for clients. Alerted by the insurer, federal prosecutors initially pursued a bribery case against Hoeffner but limited the scope of the case to lesser charges after a jury deadlocked in a 2009, criminal trial.
Court records show the lawyer later agreed to a pretrial diversion plan in which, after he paid a $2.5 million fine and completed a year of court supervision, all charges against him were dismissed earlier this year. He also gave up his law license for two years, the news agency recounts. The two claims processors pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud conspiracy charges and got a year of probation.
The attorney, who represents the lawyer suing, said in filings in the subsequent state-court tort case that an internal probe by Hartford of the $3 million scheme caused the lawyer to be federally indicted on bribery and/or kickback allegations which were later dropped by the government because they lacked factual basis.
“These charges ruined life as he knew it and have destroyed his legal career,” his lawyer is quoted as saying.
In addition to tortious interference with his attorney-client relationships, the lawyer is asserting claims against Hartford for alleged negligence, economic duress and intentional infliction of emotional distress, reports Bloomberg.
A spokesman for Hartford told the news agency in a pretrial phone interview there is no evidence supporting the lawyer’s allegations, but didn’t specifically address his allegations about the company’s reserves. In court filings the insurer said the lawyer “had many options other than to give in to the criminal extortion,” and contends that he was the architect of what it describes as a bribery scheme involving tainted settlements that earned the attorney far more than the $3 million in fees he shared with the two claims processors.
More details about the underlying case are provided in a 2010 opinion by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on an interlocutory appeal by the lawyer. In it, the appellate court affirms the trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss by the lawyer. He had contended his continued prosecution by the feds after the 2009 mistrial violated double jeopardy rules.

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