No bliss between competing yoga centers in Beaumont

Kelly Holleran Oct. 28, 2010, 6:45am

Earlier this year, the owner of a Beaumont yoga business hired one of her instructors, who also allegedly worked as a lawyer, to assist her in her divorce.

Nearly a year later, the owner remains married and now faces competition from a nearby yoga studio her former instructor opened after gaining access to her records, recent court documents alleges.

Nicole Griffin Chance filed a lawsuit Oct. 13 in Jefferson County District Court against Jessica Depew, Michael Depew and Golden Triangle Yoga.

After Chance informed her staff at Power Yoga of her intention to divorce her husband, Jessica Depew approached Chance, offering her assistance as a lawyer in exchange for continued yoga instruction, according to the complaint.

Chance decided to hire Jessica Depew and provided her with business and financial records, which she delivered to Michael Depew's office. At the time, Chance believed Michael Depew to be a lawyer, also.

Later, Chance discovered the Depews had lied to her about their professions. Michael Depew owned a computer business and had never worked as a lawyer or even attended law school. After Jessica Depew failed to pay state bar taxes and state taxes, the Texas bar suspended her on Sept. 9, 2009, from practicing law, the suit states.

As a result, Jessica Depew failed to aid Chance in her divorce, and, in fact, Chance remains married, the complaint says. Instead, Jessica Depew used her access to Chance's records to open her own yoga studio, Golden Triangle Yoga, Chance claims.

"Plaintiff learned only recently of Defendants' endeavor to open a competing yoga studio within 1,000 yards of her own studio," the suit states. "Plaintiff further learned that Defendant, Michael Depew, threatened to sue a colleague of the Plaintiff if he provided Plaintiff further information about their new business. More specifically, Defendant, Michael Depew, claimed that he was a lawyer and would take the person to court if he revealed information to Plaintiff about their new studio."

Because of the defendants' actions, Chance incurred out-of-pocket expenses, lost profits, suffered a diminished market value and lost earnings, according to her complaint.

Chance alleges deceptive trade practices, common law fraud, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the defendants.

In her complaint, Chance seeks economic and actual damages in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District Court, plus pre- and post-judgment interest at the maximum rate allowed by law, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Ryan W. Gertz of Gertz Adair Law Firm in Beaumont will be representing her.

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

Jefferson County District Court case number: A188-595

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