A Harris County jury recently levied a $196 million verdict against Andrews Kurth, finding the Houston law firm mishandled a settlement agreement between two brothers feuding over the family business.
In October of 2013, Scott Martin and his business, SKM Partnership, filed a legal malpractice suit against Andrews Kurth.
Five years prior, an ongoing dispute between Scott Martin and his brother, Ruben Martin, over the family business, Martin Resource Management Corp., had deteriorated to the point where litigation was imminent, according to the suit.
Martin retained Andrews Kurth as counsel to handle the matter.
The brothers’ mother attempted to mediate the dispute and came up with a settlement proposal, which Ruben signed off on. Andrews Kurth advised Scott changes were required and crafted a revised agreement.
“Following (Andrew Kurth’s) assurances that this new document would protect his and SKM’s interests while settling the dispute with Ruben, Scott executed it,” the suit states.
“Scott was assured by (Andre Kurth) that Ruben Martin could be legally compelled to perform the obligations of the Settlement Agreement because it was an enforceable contract.
“These assurances proved to be incorrect.”
A few months later, Scott sued Ruben to enforce the agreement – a “doomed effort” that ultimately resulted in Andrew Kurth billing Scott for more than $3 million in fees and costs, according to the lawsuit.
Court records show a Texas appeals court determined that the agreement was no more than an unenforceable agreement to agree.
“Defendant’s settlement agreement therefore failed in its core purpose, which was to resolve key issues … to avoid imminent litigation,” the suit states.
“Nearly a dozen lawsuits followed that engulfed plaintiffs. None of these lawsuits would have arisen if the settlement agreement accomplished what it was intended to do.”
The litigation between the brothers ended when Scott and SKM agreed to sell their shares of MRMC back to the company.
Scott argued Andrews Kurth failed to draft an enforceable agreement.
On Nov. 11 a jury agreed, assigned 100 percent of the negligence to the law firm, according to the charge of the court.
For the loss of Martin’s ownership in MRMC, jurors awarded him more than $167 million, if calculated as of Oct. 2, 2012.
Jurors also awarded Martin more than $29 million for fees and expenses incurred.
A motion for the court to enter its final judgment on the verdict was filed Nov. 13, court records show.
On Nov. 17 Andrews Kurth filed a motion to continue the hearing for judgment, set for Nov. 23, to no earlier than Dec. 14, arguing that time is needed to evaluate the extent of damages awarded.
Scott is represented by Philip Werner and David Ayers, attorneys for the Houston law firm Werner Ayers.
Andrew Kurth is represented in part by attorney Russel Post of Beck Redden.
Case No. 2013-61098