Plaintiff's lawyer feud results in double whammy litigation

David Yates Oct. 21, 2009, 3:30pm


Two similar suits over attorney's fees filed by two separate plaintiff's lawyers in two different counties have been put on hold while the cases' two respective judges attempt to consolidate the litigation.

Last month, the Southeast Texas Record reported on a suit filed in Orange County by plaintiff's attorney Rodney Townsend Jr. filed against fellow trial lawyer Sara Youngdahl.

In his suit, Townsend says Youngdahl hired him as a consultant on three cases but went back on her word and cheated him out of $100,000 in attorney's fees.

However, what Townsend's suit fails to report is that Youngdahl had filed a suit against him two weeks earlier in Galveston County on Aug. 18.

Arguing that she fired the first shot, Youngdahl asked Orange County Judge Dennis Powell, 163rd Judicial District, to abate Townsend's suit in her answer.

"The suit filed in Galveston County is between the same parties and involves the same asserted claims," Youngdahl's answer states, adding that since she filed first, her suit has dominant jurisdiction.

With two suits asserting similar claims floating around in two different Texas courts, Youngdahl and Townsend momentarily came together to file a joint motion to abate.

On Oct. 13, Judge Powell signed an order to abate the case until the Galveston court transfers the first suit to Orange.

Case background

At issue in Townsend's suit are three separate cases against BNSF Railway filed in Tarrant and Hardin counties. He claims that according to a verbal agreement with Youngdahl in January 2008, he was to act as lead attorney in the litigation.

"The subject of the verbal agreements involved Townsend performing certain legal work ... and acting as the lead attorney," the suit states. "In late September Youngdahl informed Townsend that she was taking back ... the cases and that his services were no longer necessary."

Townsend alleges the verbal agreement between them dictates that he receive 35 percent of the attorney's fees.

"To date, defendant has failed and refused to compensate plaintiff for the services he performed on such cases," the suit says. "There is currently due the sum of at least $100,000 for plaintiff's work performed under the oral contracts."

Townsend is represented by Steve Parkhurst, attorney for the Dies & Parkhurst law firm.

Youngdahl is represented by attorney Ross Citti.

Case No. B090478-c

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