A group of Vietnamese fishermen have filed suit against powerhouse plaintiffs’ attorney Mikal Watts, alleging the lawyer committed fraud when he listed them as his clients in litigation against BP.
On May 12, plaintiff Dung Nguyen and four others sued Watts in San Antonio in Bexar County 285th District Court.
As the Record previously reported, Watts claimed he represented 44,500 coastal residents whose livelihood was damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The large number of clients helped Watts gain a potentially lucrative spot on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee.
However, the plaintiffs suing Watts accuse him of “misappropriating” their identities and claim that none of them authorized Watts to represent them.
“On information and belief, the scope of the misappropriation exceeds 44,000 individuals and/or entities,” the lawsuit, filed by attorney Tammy Tran on behalf of the plaintiffs, states. “Defendants undertook the misappropriation in the context of handling Deepwater Horizon oil spill claims. But they actually did not ever represent the (plaintiffs) in this case. To the contrary, defendants simply claimed to represent plaintiffs even though they were never retained by plaintiffs.”
The plaintiffs are seeking a class action.
Watts didn’t take much time to respond to the allegations, filing an Original Answer on May 16. In his response, Watts denied misappropriation of anyone’s name or committing fraud.
This suit continues allegations in a December 2013 lawsuit against Watts by BP itself. The company claims that more than half the Social Security numbers on his client list in the oil spill matter were fake.
And the accusations are similar to those being investigated by federal agents, who raided Watt’s San Antonio law offices looking for evidence of identity theft. The investigation is still pending.
After news of the federal investigation, Watts stepped down from the Plaintiffs Steering Committee.
In addition to the notoriety he obtained by making millions in fees as a plaintiffs’ attorney, Watts is also known as a megadonor to the Democratic Party. According to the San Antonio Express News, Watts has given more than $7 million to Democratic candidates in statewide and national elections.
In 2012, he held a $35,800-a-plate fundraiser at his mansion in the Dominion for President Barack Obama, who was in attendance.
Bexar County District Court Case No. 2014CL07571