DALLAS - A piece of barratry litigation out of Dallas County alleges Texas hail lawyers, public adjusters and roofers are currently involved in an “elaborate web of fraud” to “line their pockets” by taking advantage of storm victims.
Last March, Ambrocia Ortega filed a RICO suit against several business and individuals, alleging an “Insurance Claim Contract” had been executed with defendant Lambcorp in 2013 to repair the plaintiff’s roof.
Allegedly, defendant Steven Rodgers (Lambcorp) collected $6,403.60 from Ortega but never performed the repairs or refunded the money.
On May 16 Juan Guerra filed a petition of intervention in the litigation, naming many of the same defendants as Ortega, including Lambcorp, plus the addition of the Texas-based Speights & Worrich law firm, which claims to specialize in insurance disputes.
“This lawsuit involves an elaborate web of fraud, barratry, breaches of fiduciary duty, conversion, systemic dishonesty, and conspiracy perpetrated by the Defendants not only on Guerra but undoubtedly on thousands of others,” the petition states.
“The Defendants, day roofers, public adjusters, and Texas lawyers, under the guise of assisting homeowners with property damage claims - particularly roof claims, have devised and operated a scheme - conspiracy - to line their pockets at the expense of their own customers and clients - Texas citizens like Guerra.”
Guerra’s suit accuses the defendant roofers, adjusters and lawyers of seeking to perpetrate an image of helping homeowners with property damage claims when in fact they have set up a scam using policyholders as “pawns to make themselves rich at the expense of Texas homeowners.”
Apparently, it starts with solicitations by canvassers working for Lambcorp who claim to "assist" the homeowners with an insurance property claim - typically a roof claim on a residence.
“The scheme begins with the door to door solicitations by the Lambcorp Defendants telling a homeowner his roof is damaged and they can get the homeowner's insurer to buy the homeowner a new roof,” the petition states.
“Following these door to door salesmen attempting to collect payment from the homeowner's insurer, the next play is to bring in a ‘public adjuster’ or persons alleged to be public adjusters as the second level of the claim. The public adjuster will then charge the homeowner a 10 percent fee ‘to represent’ the homeowner.
“The public adjuster will also charge the homeowner additional fees to inspect the home and for reports to allegedly advance the homeowner's claims. When the public adjuster fails to recover any payment, or more likely does nothing substantive to settle the homeowner's claims, the lawyer is brought in.”
Allegedly, Lambcorp provides the homeowner with agreements to sign for the public adjuster and the lawyer. The homeowner is then told to sign as part of the claims process, but no disclosure is made that there is no obligation to hire a public adjuster and a lawyer - much less the ones the Lambcorp Defendants want the homeowner to hire, the petition states.
On top of the 10 percent fee, the lawyer then heaps a 30 percent, or more, contingency fee on the Texas homeowner.
“The Lambcorp Defendants act as the lawyer's ‘runner’, appearing at the homeowner's residence with fee agreements in hand,” the petition states.
“The homeowner has no personal contact with the lawyer before the lawyer is hired and there is no substantive discussions regarding the fee agreement offered by the door to door solicitors or public adjusters before the homeowner is told to sign here.”
The petition continues by alleging that lawsuits are often filed in the name of the homeowner without the homeowner's knowledge or consent. The lawyers then settle the homeowner's claim without consent.
Following a settlement, the lawyers then send the homeowner a gutted check.
“Of course, the lawyer makes sure the runner is compensated under the guise of an estimate or other expense for work, neither performed, earned nor intended to be performed,” the petition states.
“The lawyer protects his runner by having the client agree in advance to pay these runners through provisions in the lawyer's contract. This ‘arrangement’ resembles a multi-level marketing chain where those in the chain are paid - each keeping a piece of the pie and leaving the lowest and newest member of the chain with the leftovers.
“Guerra's experience is tragically no different than those before him. Guerra did not get the new roof he was promised and entitled to because of the Defendants' greed and dishonesty.”
The petition argues the “scheme” has not only cheated Guerra, but also deprived other homeowners of entitled recovery.
“This scheme puts a black mark on and betrays the names of legitimate, hard working, and honest lawyers, public adjusters, and contractors in this great state,” the petition states.
“Not only should Guerra recover but class relief should be granted to put a stop to the Defendants' conspiracy, illegality and dishonest conduct.”
In his suit, Guerra claims the Speight firm, without his knowledge, filed a lawsuit on his behalf.
“A check was sent to Guerra, and he was told to sign the settlement agreement,” the petition states. “When Guerra protested about expenses to the Speights Firm including payments to (National Claims Negotiators and Lambcorp) he was told by the Lawyer Defendants to take it up with (them).”
The defendants named in Ortega’s suit include: Jorge Garcia, House of Tomorrow, Lambcorp EM, Lower All My Bills Companies, Zulma Pineda, Elena Rogers, Sara Rogers, Steven Ray Rogers, Public Adjusting Forensics, Sandra Harrison, Sandra Villarreal and Global Estimating.
Guerra’s petition names the following defendants: Jorge Garcia, Vivian Armas, Sara Rogers, Steven Rogers, House of Tomorrow, Lambcorp Em, NCN, Sandra Harrison, Lee Calhoun, Cody Robinson, Jason Speights, Speights & Worrich, Speights Law Firm and Worrich Law Firm.
Plano attorney Naval Patel, along with Dallas attorney Steve Badger, represents Ortega.
Guerra is represented by the Law Office of Mark A. Ticer and the Law Offices of Van Shaw, both located in Dallas.
Dallas County District Court case No. DC-15-03338