Provost Umphrey wants Leger’s $1M defamation claim arbitrated

By David Yates | Mar 22, 2017

BEAUMONT – The Provost Umphrey Law Firm wants a defamation lawsuit brought by a former firm attorney out of the courts and in the office of an arbitrator.

BEAUMONT – The Provost Umphrey Law Firm wants a defamation lawsuit brought by a former firm attorney out of the courts and in the office of an arbitrator.

Seeking up to $1 million in damages, Jane Swearingen Leger filed suit against Provost Umphrey and equity partner Bryan Blevins in February, alleging Blevins acted with malice.

According to the petition, Leger has been practicing law since 1993 and has been regarded as a person of integrity and honesty by her clients and legal community as a whole.

Leger, who left PU in August 2015, was the lead attorney on several cases at the time of her departure. The firm and Leger continued to work on those cases as co-counsel.

However, in early 2016, the parties determined they would no longer work together.

On Feb. 11, 2016, Blevins, “falsely and with malice,” apparently sent letters to the clients defaming her character.

“Jane (Leger) has rejected every offer (PU) has made with respect to these matters and without notice to Provost Umphrey began soliciting our clients,” Blevins’ letters stated, according to the suit.

Leger contends the letters demeaned her professional and personal reputation and were defamatory, false, libelous and without legal excuse.

PU and Blevins answered the suit on Feb. 22, asserting a general denial.

The defendants also moved to compel arbitration and stay proceedings based on an employment agreement, which contained an arbitration clause, Leger signed when she joined the firm in 2003.

Court records show Leger filed a response on March 3, asserting her claims don’t fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement, as she left the firm six months prior to Blevins purportedly defaming her.

“In fact, if the court were to adopt Defendants’ position, any tort claim would be subject to the arbitration clause,” the response states.

“That is, according to Defendants’ arguments, if 5 years from now one of the Defendant Provost’s equity partners negligently runs a red light bashing into Leger causing injuries, Leger would have to arbitrate said claim.”

Leger is suing for actual and exemplary damages.

She is represented by Melissa Morales Fletcher of the Morales Firm in San Antonio.

PU and Blevins are represented by Beck Redden attorneys Fields Alexander.

Judge Kent Walston, 58th District Court, is assigned to the case.

Filed in Jefferson County District Court on Feb. 1, cause No. A-199554

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