A Beaumont judge recently granted American Express' motion to compel arbitration in litigation brought by an area law firm over alleged fraudulent charges.

As previously reported, the Beaumont law firm Benckenstein, Norvell & Nathan filed suit against American Express on June 3 in Jefferson County District for refusing to investigate and remove fraudulent credit charges made by the firm's former office manager.

Court records show that American Express filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay proceedings on Oct. 17, arguing that claims in the lawsuit are subject to mandatory arbitration under the credit card agreement between the companies.

Ten days later, Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, granted the motion, ordering the parties into arbitration and staying the case until completion.

The suit alleges that on June 10, 2009, the firm became aware that its office manager had racked up $24,896 in fraudulent charges on its American Express credit account.

The unidentified office manager was terminated the following day, brought up on charges, indicted by a grand jury and eventually pleaded guilty, the suit states.

The suit states that on July 24, 2009, American Express informed the firm "that it did not have sufficient information to conduct a reasonable review of plaintiff's (fraudulent charges) claim."

"Defendant has refused to acknowledge the fraudulent charges made on plaintiff's credit card account," the suit states. "The 'Fraud Protection Guarantee' made by defendant was false, misleading and deceptive."

Benckenstein, Norvell & Nathan is seeking recovery of the economic damages its has sustained because of the fraudulent charges.

Beaumont attorney Barry Bennett of Eddins & Bennett represents the firm.

American Express is represented by Donald Littlefield, attorney for the Houston law firm Ballard & Littlefield.

Case No. A190-207

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