If they wanted to get Cracken, they should have got crackin' sooner.

That's the message a trial court delivered to plaintiffs when it granted summary judgment to defendants accused of stealing the identities of those plaintiffs and passing them off as clients in class action suits following the Gulf Oil Spill.

Finding that the plaintiffs had missed the deadline for filing their suit, a Harris County District Court judge granted summary judgment on limitations to attorneys John Cracken and Bob Hilliard. Last week, an appeals court upheld the decision.

It's not that the Vietnamese-American fishermen had insufficient evidence to prove unauthorized use of their identities; it's just that they didn't present that evidence soon enough.

Cracken and Hilliard were alleged to have used case runners to help fellow attorney Mikal Watts compile his now-notorious list of 40,000-plus clients allegedly damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill: a list that included dead people, a live dog, and fishermen unaware of their claimed client status.

Lucy Lu was one of tens of thousands of clients Watts claimed to represent in a lawsuit seeking billions in damages from BP. Though identified as a deckhand on a fishing boat, she turned out to be a chó (Vietnamese for dog).

It's unclear whether Lucy Lu hired Watts directly or through an intermediary – or if she even hired him at all, since a majority of clients turned out not to be alive, not to have correct Social Security numbers, or not to be aware of their representation by Watts.

Watts, his brother David, and five associates were indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and identity theft charges in 2015. They were acquitted in 2016.

Cracken and Hilliard were sued for $100 million in the case just dismissed. The clock ran out. Maybe not so on another day.

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Harris County District Court
1201 Franklin Street
Houston, TX - 77002

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