Heavyweight battle between Umphrey, Coon wages on in civil court

David Yates Jun. 3, 2010, 3:36am

Brent Coon

Although an arbitrator recently mediated a dispute between the Provost Umphrey law firm and Brent Coon over attorneys' fees garnered from asbestos litigation, the heated battle between the plaintiff's attorneys wages on civil court.

Coon, a former attorney at Walter Umphrey's firm, in February persuaded Judge Milton Shuffield to seal an arbitration award stemming from a lawsuit over asbestos attorney's fees on the basis that it was none of the public's concern.

However Coon has since asked that the arbitration award be vacated. In a March 18 motion for a new trial, Coon argues that Shuffield erred when he confirmed the arbitration award.

In his motion, Coon says the arbitrator was wrong in awarding fees to PU attorney Bryan Blevins for his work on asbestos litigation driven by Coon.

Furthermore, he disagreed with the award of $322,520.23 for incurred auditor's fees to the PU law firm.

"Rule 50 of the AAA Commercial Arbitration Rules does not provide authority or support for taxing the cost of the audit against the defendants," the motion states. "Thus, the audit expense of $322,520.23 borne by PU should not be taxed against Coon."

While Coon fights for a new trial, PU is actively pursuing sanctions against him.

On May 20, PU filed a motion for sanctions, claiming Coon failed to answer required interrogatories and refused to comply with discovery requests.

"On March 26 plaintiff caused its first set of post judgment interrogatories to be severed on Coon (and his firm)," PU's sanction motion states. "Defendants were required to serve written answers ... on April 28. Defendants completely failed and refused to sever any answers to the interrogatories."

On top of sanctions, PU is also asking Judge Shuffield to strike Coon's motion for a new trial.

For several years now, the attorneys have been warring over millions in attorney's fees flowing from asbestos litigation.

In separate litigation, the parties have also been in battle over fees received from the state's multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement as well.

PU sued Coon and his firm in 2006, alleging Coon was keeping attorney's fees won while in PU's employment.

Judge Shuffield permanently sealed the final judgment award on Feb. 8. The award was issued on Dec. 30 by the American Arbitration Association.

Provost Umphrey is represented in part by Orgain, Bell & Tucker attorney Gary Reger.

Coon is represented by the Law Office of Keith Kebodeaux.

Case No. A176-633

More News