Appeal in case against lawyers denied due to further claims pending in trial court

David Yates Nov. 10, 2008, 7:59am

Justices on the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals have brightened the light at the end of the tunnel for a score of lawyers by recently dismissing an appeal that derives from a two-decade old litigation.

Nearly 19 years ago, James Holder filed a Jones Act suit against Southwest Towing Inc. in Jefferson County District Court. An additional suit stemming from the incident was filed in federal court against Texas Eastern Products Pipeline Co. and its insurance provider.

On Dec. 9, 2006, the suit against TEPP climaxed when the parties reached a settlement that would have awarded Holder $191,000 in damages, court documents show.

But Holder claimed that was far less than the half million dollars he was entitled to and turned on the lawyers that had won his case. Holder sued his attorneys on Dec. 8, 2006 � the day before his settlement became official, court papers say.

The lawyers entangled in Holder's suit included John P. Cowart, Ed W. Barton, John D. McElroy, Quentin D. Price and Rodney T. Townsend Jr. The suit also named the lawyers' respective law firms as defendants.

Orders signed on March 13 and June 24 by Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, granted partial summary judgment but identified claims that remained pending, court documents show.

Then on July 23 Sanderson granted a motion for summary judgment and decreed that Holder take nothing from John P. Cowart, John P. Cowart PC and Moore Landrey LLP.

In his docketing statement, Holder states that claims remain pending in the trial court against the remaining defendants.

Not too happy with the judge's decision, Holder filed a notice of appeal on Aug. 22, hoping to keep the lawyers trapped in his suit.

"We questioned our jurisdiction over the appeal and instructed the parties to file written responses by Sept. 12, 2008," states the appeal court's memorandum opinion. "We extended the response date to Oct. 20, 2008, but have not received a response from any of the parties.

"Claims remain unresolved in the trial court. Thus, the trial court's order is not appealable as a final judgment. Although we gave notice that the appeal was subject to dismissal, Holder failed to file a response that showed grounds for continuing the appeal.

"Holder supplied no authority that supports the exercise of appellate jurisdiction at this time. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction."

The opinion was delivered Oct. 30.

Holder is represented by attorney John W. Mikus.

Appeals case No. 09-08-00364-CV
Trial case No. B178-288

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