NEW ORLEANS -- The judge overseeing the litigation from the BP oil spill has determined that at least one of the contracts with Brent Coon and Associates has a forged client signature.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier told Beaumont attorney Brent Coon today that the signature on the contract of Vietnamese fisherman Dien Nguyen does not match Nguyen's signature on other documents. According to the Houston Chronicle, Barbier stated he believes the signature on the contract was forged.
Coon has maintained that he did represent Nguyen, and is entitled to a 25 percent cut of Nguyen's settlement with BP.
But Barbier's ruling nixes any chance of Coon receiving attorney fees from Nguyen's case.
Barbier also ruled the same for James J. Dailey of Mobile, Ala., who claims to also represent Nguyen. Dailey and Coon have partnered to represent oil spill plaintiffs.
Coon told Barbier that he had never met Nguyen and said his documents show Nguyen was signed up by a woman who works for Dailey's paralegal. But Nguyen testified that he never met Coon, Dailey or the woman who supposedly obtained his signature.
This is not the first problem Coon and Associates has had regarding BP client signatures. Coon had claimed that thousands of his oil spill clients were choosing to "opt out" of the mass settlement offered by BP to pursue their own litigation.
But in November, attorneys for BP and other plaintiffs attorneys told Barbier that more than 9,000 opt-out documents were invalid because an attorney and not the client signed the request.
“And most of these ‘signatures’ were not even done by counsel personally; instead, they were applied using what appears to be a rubber stamp of the lawyer’s signature, which begs the question of whether even counsel — let alone the clients — executed these submissions with due consideration to each submission and each client’s facts, circumstances, and interests,” BP and plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote.
According to the Houston Chronicle, nearly 8,000 opt-out requests were submitted by Brent Coon’s Texas-based law firm without any client signatures on them.
“Three years from now many class members will realize they were sucked into a deal with unkept promises and at least those who weren’t will have saved their tort remedy,” Coon wrote in a Nov. 5 email to lead plaintiffs’ attorney Steve Herman and reported by the Chronicle.
“Three years from now, your clients will either have relief, or they will still be sitting around waiting for you to try their cases,” Herman responded. “Personally, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect that people who participate in the Settlement Program will be a lot happier than people who have opted out.”
Coon is also in hot water over discrepancies between his clients' claims to asbestos trusts and claims the same clients made in state civil asbestos lawsuits.
As the Record previously reported, the Wall Street Journal launched an investigation into payouts to mesothelioma victims from the enormous trust funds established by bankrupted companies that manufactured or used asbestos products, like Johns Manville. But plaintiffs claiming illnesses from asbestos exposure can also file lawsuits against solvent companies in state courts, without disclosing claims against or payments from asbestos trusts.
“One law firm that made disparate filings was Brent Coon and Associates of Beaumont, Texas,” wrote Dionne Searcy for the WSJ on March 11. “Mr. Coon, who plays guitar in a rock band and is known for Christmas parties featuring performers such as Foreigner, represented Richard Baker, a Nevada electrician and smoker whose death certificate and pathology reports say he died of lung cancer in 2005. His claim forms to at least seven trusts say he died of lung cancer, as did his sweeping lawsuit against 42 solvent companies filed in state court in Harris County, Texas. The suit, stuck in a gummed up asbestos docket, is still pending.
“But to the Manville trust, Mr. Coon’s firm said that its client had mesothelioma—despite pathology reports submitted to the trust that listed Mr. Baker’s disease as lung cancer, a distinctly different diagnosis. In December 2004, the trust accepted Mr. Baker’s mesothelioma claim and offered him the standard value it assigns to that disease, a payout of about $17,500. Had his disease been listed as lung cancer the value would have been $4,750.”
Coon told the WSJ that since has thousands of cases, "I'm sure there are errors made from time to time."