John Suayan Oct. 6, 2015, 4:59pm


The family of a man who was killed in a collision with an Amtrak train is suing Houston law firm Arnold & Itkin, L.L.P., alleging the defendant secured $240,000 through “illegal and unethical” barratry.

Plaintiffs Judy Gauthier, the widow of the late Larry Gauthier; Lucretta Nickerson, his daughter; and his grandchildren Jermaine and Yolanda Gauthier filed a lawsuit against Arnold & Itkin and its principals, attorneys Kurt B. Arnold and Jason A. Itkin, on Sept. 25 in the Harris County 295th District Court.

Court papers explain that an investigator by the name of Richard R. Fleisher, a non-lawyer who operated Fleisher Investigative Consultants, “personally and without request” visited Judy Gauthier at the family home to solicit employment on behalf of Arnold & Itkin.

Fleisher, who is not a party in the litigation, did not disclose that he was employed by the attorney defendants at the meeting, the original petition says.

Fleisher has his own suit against Arnold & Itkin, a $4 million claim alleging the firm refused to pay him for personal injury clients he drummed up for the lawyers.

Fleisher reportedly requested the plaintiffs fly to Houston to meet with Arnold and Itkin. The Gauthiers hired the attorneys to represent them in legal action against Amtrak for a 40 percent contingency fee, however, Fleisher’s relationship with the law firm was again keep under wraps.

The plaintiffs’ suit lasted from January 2007 to August 2009 when it was settled by a confidential amount. According to the family, they paid the attorneys the $240,000 in question without knowing the latter’s connection to Fleisher.

A few months ago, the complaint states, the Gauthiers learned that the defendants and Fleisher had a business arrangement in which Fleisher investigated and sent them “some personal cases” in exchange for 10 percent of the total recovery for each of the cases referred.

“The plaintiffs did not discover, nor could they have reasonably discovered, the illegal and unethical referral arrangement until Fleisher filed suit on June 24, 2015 as this information was intentionally concealed from the plaintiffs,” the suit says.

The Gauthiers consequently seek “forfeiture and repayment of all monies, fees and expenses paid to the defendants,” which amounts to more than the $240,000 purportedly paid to the respondents.

A jury trial is also requested.

Attorneys Lance Christopher Kassab and David Eric Kassab of The Kassab Law Firm in Houston are representing the complainants.

Harris County 295th District Court Case No. 2015-57459

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