John Suayn Mar. 18, 2016, 9:20am


A Mississippi man recently sued Houston-based John M. O’Quinn & Associates and its related firms on what he alleges was “horrific malfeasance,” per Houston federal court records.

In a lawsuit filed Mar. 9 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas, Clifton Gatlin explains that he hired the defendants to represent him after he was diagnosed with silicosis.

Gatlin’s counsel, however, failed to process settlements with various underlying silica defendants, the complaint asserts.

Gatlin worked as sandblaster from 1989 to 2003. Sometime in 2003, he sought medical treatment after experiencing a shortness of breath and a lung biopsy ultimately confirmed the presence of silicosis.

Grenfell, Sledge & Stephens, a Mississippi law firm, referred the plaintiff to the respondents. At the same time, the suit says, the late John M. O’Quinn and one of the attorneys with the firm entered into a joint venture to accumulate and amass silicosis docket through legal and illegal means.

The O’Quinn Law Firm filed Gatlin’s silica case in Jefferson County District Court in the early 2000s. After the filing, O’Quinn had Gatlin screened by a pulmonologist, who subsequently determined that the plaintiff was suffering from silicosis and would require a lung transplant.

The suit shows that the defendants entered into numerous settlements given the seriousness of Gatlin’s exposure and that O’Quinn himself promised Gatlin “his settlement will be more than $4 million” to which the complainant states never materialized because his legal team neglected to finalize the aforementioned settlements, including but not limited to a $250,000 settlement from 3M and a $150,000 settlement from Halliburton.

“These settlements or claims were lost because the defendants simply failed to process and/or finalize settlement agreements,” the original petition says.

“Had the defendants exercised reasonable diligence, the silicosis defendants would have finalized the foregoing settlements and the plaintiff would have received these funds.”

Court documents further claim that “some of the other settlements or claims were lost because the defendants erroneously non-suited and dismissed certain silicosis defendants because they were getting close to trial,” which caused some not to honor the previously agreed settlements.

They also charge that the respondents kept the settlement funds to themselves and failed to allocate the money in a timely fashion, adding Gatlin was saddled with “unnecessary interest and unnecessary costs for future expenses.” According to the original petition, he paid $87,000 in arbitrary general expenses.

The defendants purportedly billed the plaintiff and other clients for travel and dining expenses, which the suit labels as “frivolous conduct.”

Consequently, Gatlin seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Attorney Jerry A. Pusch of the Law Office of Jerry A. Pusch in Houston is representing the complainant.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas Case No. 4:16-CV-0629

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