Beaumont lawyers claim clients trying to avoid paying fees

Kelly Holleran Nov. 8, 2010, 5:40am

Two Beaumont law firms allege their clients were trying to avoid paying attorneys' fees by terminating their services as a case neared settlement

Stephen N. Williams, The Williams Firm, Mitchell A. Toups and Weller, Green, Toups and Terrell claim they began working for defendants Monica Ann Williams, Lois Johnston, Miki Kay Wright, Michelle Lynn Stroud, Lacy MeShawn Johnston, 1699 Investments, Bielau Oaks, Central Asia Trading, Windmill Ridge Enterprises, A.J. Hauling-Texas, A.J. Crane Texas and A.J. Crane in 2006.

According to the complaint filed Oct. 28 in Jefferson County District Court, the defendants hired the plaintiffs to represent them in a suit they filed regarding contractual issues in connection with crane work and associated services performed in Azerbaijan.

By 2008, the two plaintiff law firms had reached settlement terms with BP, one of the defendants and had obtained an agreement from BP to not interfere with other contracts the defendants pursued.

After obtaining settlement terms with BP, the current defendants requested the two plaintiff law firms travel to Dubai to attempt a resolution with other defendants, the suit states.

"WGTT and TWF made substantial headway with regard to a resolution of the contract disputes related to the Caspian Sea Project and had already spent more than 18 months working on the case for Johnston/AJC without complaint by Johnston," the suit states. "WGTT and TWF had reached a tentative settlement with one Defendant BP, and were working on settlement terms with another Defendant as of December 2008."

But the plaintiffs claims Johnston and A.J. Crane suddenly terminated the law firms' representation on Aug. 18, 2009, without cause and withdrew their consent to any settlement with BP, the plaintiffs claim.

In the contract the defendants signed when they hired the plaintiff law firms, a statement outlines that the defendants cannot terminate the attorneys from the case without good cause, according to the complaint.

"AJC cannot show good cause for said dismissal or termination of these attorneys," the suit states. "WGTT and TWF believed that Johnston/AJC wanted to avoid paying legal fees and that they sensed a settlement was imminent."

The plaintiffs allege breach of contract, fraud and conversion against the defendants.
They seek an unspecified judgment, plus attorneys' fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

The plaintiffs will be appearing pro se.

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

Jefferson County District Court case number: A188-708

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