By LIZZY FITZSOUSA
NEW ORLEANS – A local construction company is suing its former lawyers after they allegedly mishandled a multi-million dollar BP claim.
Howell Construction Inc. filed suit against Andry Lerner LLC, Andry Law Group LLC, Johnathan B. Andry and Christina E. Mancuso in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
Howell alleges that in July 2012 it contracted with the defendants for the handling of Howell’s British Petroleum claim for losses due to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Howell asserts that it cooperated fully and signed a contingent fee contract on July 12, 2012. Howell claims that in October 2012, the defendants indicated that Howell did not qualify for the BP settlement and needed to opt out. The construction company claims it signed the forms provided by the defendants and opted out on Nov. 1, 2012.
According to the suit, in order to properly opt out a formal presentment was due in mid-January 2013. However, on Jan. 29, the defendants sent Howell a letter indicating that the defendants no longer wanted to represent the company and would not handle any of its claims. This letter came nine days after the presentment deadline, which the defendants never filed. Howell did not understand that by opting out of the settlement, it was forever barred from filing a BP claim. By failing to file a formal presentment, Howell also lost the option to proceed with a private lawsuit under the Oil Pollution Act, the suit claims.
The defendant is accused of professional negligence and legal malpractice. According to the suit, the firm failed to properly evaluate Howell’s BP claim, failed to timely file a presentment under the Oil Pollution Act and failed to properly and adequately advise Howell.
Howell claims it sought the opinion of a second law firm, which found it had a legitimate BP claim for approximately $4 million. This claim was blocked due to the prior representation of Howell by the defendants. Ultimately, Howell was left with no ability to pursue any type of BP claim or oil spill related settlement, the suit says.
Andry Lerner has been accused of “egregious conduct” in handling other BP claims by former FBI director Louis Freeh, according to the suit.
The plaintiff is represented by Robert H. Matthews of Matthews & Warriner LLC and Jean-Paul Layrisson of Scandurro & Layrisson.
Case is assigned to Division C Judge Sidney H. Cates.
Case no. 2014-00673