HOUSTON – Four months after being sued, Eric Dick, a hail attorney out of Houston, has finally answered a lawsuit claiming he stiffed an appraiser who worked with him on hundreds of cases.
Alleging theft of services and fraud, Eric Ramirez and his company, L.A. Public Insurance Adjusters, filed a breach of contract suit against Dick and his firm on April 30 in Harris County District Court.
Ramirez had worked with Dick since May 2012, providing the attorney with inspection, estimation, appraisal and even expert witness services.
But beginning in December 2015 and continuing into the coming years, Dick allegedly breached his agreements with Ramirez and declined to pay him approximately $115,000 in invoices, according to the suit.
Normally, a defendant must answer a lawsuit within 20 days after being served. Dick, who was apparently “dodging” process servers, took 104 days to respond to Ramirez’s complaint.
Court records show Ramirez filed a motion to substitute service of process on July 2, stating that attempts to serve Dick at his law firm and home were unsuccessful.
Dick was definitely aware of the lawsuit, as The Record had contacted him after the litigation was filed for comment – a fact detailed in Ramirez’s motion.
“Days after suit was filed, Dick commented on its merits, telling reporters it ‘has no merit’ and ‘won’t be the first or the last frivolous lawsuit against [him],’” the motion states. “Notwithstanding Dick’s confidence in his defense, he has been evading service of process.”
According to the motion, a process server had spoken with a secretary at Dick’s firm on May 31 and was told the attorney was out of the country. On June 5, a process server attempted to serve Dick at his home but, despite vehicles parked outside, was once again unsuccessful.
“It is evident that Dick is intentionally dodging service of process,” the motion states. “And again, Dick clearly is aware of this lawsuit as he has already commented on its merits.
“There is simply no explanation for Dick’s failure to return the process server’s call and accept service of this lawsuit.”
The trial court granted the motion and Dick finally filed an answer on Aug. 12, asserting a general denial and moving that the suit be dismissed under the Texas Citizens Participation Act – an anti-SLAPP statute created to safeguard free speech and association against retaliatory lawsuits.
Dick contends the lawsuit “is clearly retaliatory” and was filed in direct response to his right to associate with his insured clients.
Dick says individuals that had denied or underpaid insurance claims associated with him and he found it proper to invoke appraisal. In turn, Dick named Ramirez as the insured’s appraiser.
The answer argues that there is no question Ramirez understood Dick was an agent of the insured and holds no personal liability and that almost every appraisal clause requires that the insured and insurer each pay for their own appraiser.
As far as the breach of contract claim goes, Dick maintains Ramirez has “many problems” proving a contract between them existed and that there was “never an offer or acceptance because Defendants never needed Plaintiffs’ services.”
“Due to the fact that a contract never formed out of the free association and free discourse had between Plaintiffs and Defendants, Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim fails and should be dismissed by the Court under the auspices of Rule 91a and the TCPA,” the answer states.
Dick, who is representing himself, is requesting sanctions be imposed on Ramirez for filing a “groundless and false” pleading.
Ramirez is suing for actual and exemplary damages.
Houston attorney Lance Christopher Kassab represents him.
Case No. 2019-30183