Lawsuits drop by 600 in '08, Provost Umphrey cuts asbestos filings in half

David Yates Dec. 29, 2008, 9:18am


The financial sector isn't the only industry in decline. The number of lawsuits filed yearly in Jefferson County is also in remission, with trial lawyers filing 600 fewer suits in 2008 -- cutting asbestos filings in half.

The Jefferson County District Clerk's Office logged 2,596 lawsuits in 2007. That number dropped drastically in 2008, as around 1,985 new lawsuits were filed in the county's four civil courts.
The most notable drop in suits came in the way of asbestos related filings.

In 2007, the majority of the asbestos and benzene lawsuits were filed by the Provost Umphrey law firm -- the county's most well known law firm.

PU attorneys Bryan Blevins and Keith Hyde combined to file around 65 asbestos and benzene lawsuits in 2007. Blevins filed around 50 asbestos suits, while Hyde submitted approximately 15 benzene filings.

In 2008, Blevins submitted only 20 new asbestos-related filings, 30 less than '07. Hyde upped his total by two, giving him around 17 benzene related filings in '08.

There were nearly 80 asbestos suits filed in total for 2007, whereas there were less than 40 asbestos filing in 2008.

Perhaps one of the reasons 2008 saw around 611 less lawsuits is that Hurricane Rita related filings were not as prolific, with lawyers filing around 200 fewer Rita suits.

However, although asbestos and Rita suits were in decline in '08, there was no shortage of automobile collision suits.

In 2008, auto-collision suits were king, with plaintiff's lawyers filing around 495 new lawsuits -- roughly 25 percent of all suits filed in the District Clerk's office in '08.

Local attorneys, like Jonathan Juhan, frequently advertise throughout the area, encouraging Golden Triangle residents to sue after being injured in a car wreck.

"I am proud to have represented thousands of my injured Southeast Texas neighbors since 1989," Juhan says on his Web site.

"It is imperative that you speak personally with a local lawyer who knows what information insurance companies use to evaluate claims. In addition, you need a local lawyer who knows the local adjusters."

The 2007 U.S. Census listed Jefferson County's population at 241,975, which statistically equates to roughly one out of every 121 residents filing suit in '08.

The statistic does not include the hundreds of other residents who signed their names to class-action suits, or filed suit in Jefferson County's Court of Law No. 1 which handles small civil suits.

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