Dugas sues attorneys to collect his share from fee agreement

Kelly Holleran May 6, 2009, 8:00am


Beaumont attorney Clay Dugas has filed a suit against attorneys he alleges have shut him out of collecting shared legal fees from a medical malpractice case despite a signed agreement between them.

In a suit against a doctor, two Texas law firms and two of their attorneys filed May 4, Dugas of Clay Dugas and Associates, claims he is owed at least 20 percent of profits in a case from which he was terminated.

Dugas says Elizabeth Higginbotham of Higginbotham and Associates in Kyle approached him in December 2007 about helping her prosecute a case against certain health care providers on behalf of her client, Patricia Guffey.

In return for 50 percent of attorney's fees in the case, Dugas agreed to share in the representation of Guffey, according to the complaint filed in Jefferson County District Court.

The complaint states that a fee sharing agreement was signed by Guffey, Higginbotham, Dugas and attorney Joe Lovell of Lovell, Lovell, Newsom and Isern of Amarillo. Dugas states he immediately began to work on Guffey's case.

"Plaintiff's firm retained expert reports from a board certified pathologist, a board certified radiologist and a board certified gynecologist," the suit states. "Plaintiff arranged for and presented the client for her deposition. Plaintiff prepared a response to various dispositive motions filed by the healthcare providers, including a response to a motion for summary judgment and motions to dismiss."

Later, for personal reasons, Higginbotham agreed to reduce her participation in the case and let Lovell and his firm take on increased responsibility, the complaint states. As a result, Higginbotham's share of the fee was reduced to 15 percent.

At the time of the case filing, Dr. Bal Kale was employed by Dugas' firm. However, Kale left the employment of the firm in March and contacted Higginbotham about his desire to participate in the Guffey lawsuit.

After Kale contacted Higginbotham, both Higginbotham and Lovell met with Guffey in April. However, Dugas was not informed of the meeting and did not attend, according to the complaint.

On April 23, Dugas received a letter from Guffey terminating Dugas from her representation.

Dugas is asking the court to declare that he is entitled to 20 percent of the cause of action by Guffey against her health care providers at the time of settlement or final judgment.

He is also asking for a declaration that the defendants must protect Dugas's 20 percent interest in Guffey's case and must reimburse him for expenses he incurred while prosecuting the case.

In addition, Dugas is seeking attorney's fees and costs for bringing the declaratory judgment action and other relief to which he may be entitled.

Dugas is representing himself.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A183-951.

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