A Mississippi woman is seeking to obtain the $3 million judgment from the lawyers who allegedly lost the money in her now defunct harassment suit.
Martina Smart Simmons filed her legal malpractice claim against attorneys John Barr and John House and their Dallas firm, Burt Barr and Associates, on Monday, March 2 in the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas, Dallas Division.
In her complaint, Smart Simmons says in December 2001 she hired the defendant law firm to represent her in her suit against Dr. Piyush Patel and his associated business entities.
During the course of their relationship, Smart Simmons obtained an agreed judgment through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against one of Patel’s affiliated companies, The Heart Center and Heart Place Hospital, L.P., in the amount of $155,000 on Sept. 23, 2004.
In 2004 and 2005, Patel and some of his affiliates filed for bankruptcy. However, on Jan. 24, 2011, without obtaining relief from the bankruptcy court, the defendant attorneys obtained a final default judgment in the amount of $3,000,000 against Patel, the suit states.
“Although Defendants were aware that Dr. Patel and certain of his affiliated entities had filed for bankruptcy relief, Defendants failed to properly preserve Plaintiff’s claims by failing to take the procedural and substantive steps necessary to protect her claims in the various bankruptcy proceedings …,” the suit states.
“Plaintiff’s claims arose from conduct committed by Dr. Patel which conduct was a continuing, intentional tort and thus, would have been non-dischargeable in his personal bankruptcy proceeding; and should not have been dischargeable in the various related bankruptcy proceedings.”
Smart Simmons says she was unaware of the alleged legal malpractice until she received a June 19, 2014, letter from the attorneys, which stated in pertinent part: “The claims which were the subject of the lawsuit we filed on your behalf against Dr. Patel were discharged in bankruptcy before we obtained the judgment on your behalf.”
In that same letter, the attorneys informed her that they “did not file a Proof of
Claim on your behalf or object to the Bankruptcy Court discharging Dr. Patel’s debts. As such, all the claims that we pursued on your behalf were discharged and the judgment that we took against Dr. Patel is not any good,” according to the lawsuit.
Smart Simmons contends the defendants’ negligent conduct constitutes legal malpractice and has caused her to suffer mental anguish and emotional distress.
She is suing for $3,155,000, plus interest and court costs.
Brian Dollar, a Monroe, La. attorney, represents her.
Case No. 3:15-cv-00674