BEAUMONT – Another chapter has been added to the continuing drama between Philip Klein, a local PI and blogger, and Jeffrey Dorrell – a Houston attorney Klein claims is trying to “litigate” him “out of business.”
Seeking more than $2 million in damages, Litisha Peshoff filed suit against Klein Investments, Stephen Hartman and Al Reed Bail Bonds on Jan. 10 in Jefferson County District Court.
Hartman, who was convicted of deadly conduct in December, was an employee of Klein, working as a process server and private investigator.
On Oct. 13, 2016, Noel Jackowski, who was wanted by authorities for failing to appear in court, was riding with Peshoff when Peshoff noticed Hartman’s black truck following her, according to the lawsuit.
Hartman had been hired by Al Reed as a “bounty hunter” to capture Jackowski.
“Chasing the women, Hartman began to drive in an unsafe and threatening manner—speeding, pulling alongside Peshoff several times, and following at an unsafe distance,” the suit states.
“Peshoff and Jackowski could see Hartman leering at them as he attempted to close the distance between their cars. After several minutes of this terrifying behavior, Hartman pulled alongside Peshoff, rolled down his window, and ordered Peshoff to pull to the side of the road.
Not knowing who Hartman was, Peshoff did not comply.
“After Peshoff refused to submit to the unknown gunman, Hartman attempted to run her off the road,” the suit states. “Failing at this, Hartman managed to pull alongside Peshoff again—this time pointing his gun at her.”
When Hartman told Peshoff he had a warrant for Jackowski’s arrest, Peshoff pulled into a church parking lot. He then placed Jackowski in handcuffs, “but before he could harm the women further,” Groves police officers arrived, the suit states.
“After the women described the harrowing experience they had just had, Hartman admitted he worked for Klein and was hired by Al Reed to perform bounty-hunting services,” the suit states.
“Upon information and belief, Klein knew of, approved of, or ratified Hartman’s work for Al Reed. Alternatively, Hartman’s moonlighting for Al Reed was foreseeable and reasonable because Hartman was able to perform such work only by virtue of his association with Klein.”
Klein told the Record his company knew nothing about the warrant or Hartman’s actions until the next day and that he believes Hartman was freelancing at the time.
“Jeffrey Dorrell (Peshoff’s attorney) is using the civil justice system to litigate our firm out of business,” Klein said. “He and his associates, Thomas Retzlaff and Neal Rauhauser, continue to recruit litigates, which is being documented.
“This is a serious case of Barratry as we believe Peshoff was recruited by Dorrell’s assistant Thomas Retzlaff.”
When Klein was notified of a potential lawsuit over the incident, he sent Dorrell a letter stating he and his company wanted to be 100 percent cooperative and told the attorney he conducted an investigation on Hartman’s actions and terminated his employment.
“Mr. Hartman was terminated by our company for infractions of policy, including working outside our company on his own, weapons policy violations, and because he was arrested,” the letter states. “In fact, Mr. Hartman was not using a company vehicle, a company ID, any company equipment, and did not report to the company that he was doing any work at the time.
“We were than and now upset, angry and do not tolerate any employee ‘freelancing’ for their own benefit.”
Peshoff alleges her injuries are a “proximate result of Klein’s and Al Reed’s gross negligence,” which entitles her to exemplary damages.
She is suing for $1 million in economic damages and another $1 million for exemplary damages, plus all court costs and attorney’s fees.
Dorrell is an attorney for the Hanszen LaPorte law firm in Houston.
Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, has been assigned to the case.
Case No. E-201156