HOUSTON – Rather than rely on the courts, Beaumont attorney Brent Coon will have to arbitrate a dispute with another lawyer over referral fees stemming from asbestos litigation – thanks to a recent Texas appellate court ruling.
In 2002, Brent Coon & Associates (BCA) and Dennis Weitzel entered into a referral agreement outlining the percentage of fees Weitzel and another attorney, Michael Gallagher, would receive upon a case’s favorable resolution if they referred asbestos, mesothelioma, and lung cancer clients to BCA.
Court records show Weitzel joined BCA as an attorney sometime after the agreement. On Feb. 19, 2010 Weitzel ended his employment and entered into a separation agreement, which contained an arbitration clause.
In August 2018, Gallagher and his firm sued Coon and BCA alleging breach of the asbestos case referral agreement. In turn, Coon and BCA filed a third party claim against Weitzel, asserting causes of action against Weitzel for BCA’s alleged overpayment of referral fees to him.
BCA argued that Weitzel did not forward portions of payments to Gallagher that he received from BCA.
In response, Weitzel filed an answer and moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the 2010 agreement executed between them, court records show.
The trial court denied Weitzel’s motion last December, prompting the appeal.
On July 30, the First Court of Appeals concluded the trial court erred and reversed the ruling.
“The court must enforce a valid arbitration agreement that delegates arbitrability to the arbitrator rather than the court,” the opinion states.
Weitzel is represented by Michael Rumac, attorney for the Dallas law firm Fox Rothschild.
Appeals case No. 01-19-00015-CV