Lanier (photo from superlawyers.com)
HOUSTON – A legal malpractice lawsuit against renowned attorney Mark Lanier is still up on appeal, leading the woman who brought the case against him to believe that she may not live long enough to see the case’s resolution.
On June 14, Lanier answered the suit brought by Sheri Dorgan, a former client claiming the attorney had “more important” things to do instead of litigating her BP oil spill claim.
Dorgan alleges she was “drastically” affected by the Deepwater Horizon well blowout incident and claims that she was exposed to benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals.
In his answer, Lanier asserted that Dorgan’s claims “must be resolved by binding arbitration.” The attorney also sought a protective order against Dorgan’s discovery requests because the contingency fee contract she signed contains a “valid, enforceable arbitration agreement.”
On Oct. 14, the trial court denied Lanier’s motion to compel arbitration. A month later, Lanier appealed but had his petition for writ of mandamus denied by the 14th Court of Appeals on Nov. 26, court records show.
Court records show that there is a separate appeal in the case that was immediately filed after the trial court denied the motion. However, as of Feb. 13, there are still no briefs filed in the appeal.
On Jan. 23, the 14th Court, for the third time, granted Lanier’s motion for an extension to file a brief, giving him until Feb. 14.
Dorgan reached out to The Record about the appeal, saying that, outside of losing her husband, this case has been one of the hardest things in her life.
“My health still hangs in the balance. The benzene destroyed my immune system, so it’s a daily struggle,” Dorgan said. “I truly do not expect to live long enough to see a verdict in my case. I am sure Mark Lanier knew that from the beginning.”
Seeking in excess of $1 million in damages, Dorgan filed her suit against Lanier and Charles Herd, a former Lanier Law Firm attorney, on May 7 in Harris County District Court.
She says she hired Lanier and his firm. Herd also worked on her case. When Herd left the firm to start his own, he took her case with him. Yet, Lanier and his firm did not withdraw from representing her and continued to expect compensation from the case.
“Unfortunately, these Super Lawyers had too many ‘more important’ things to do while handling Sheri’s case and failed to follow the dictates of Judge Carl Barbier, the federal court judge presiding over the underlying case,” the suit states. “Lanier was too busy accumulating accolades to be distracted by Sheri’s case and Herd was too busy starting his own practice.”
The lawyers allegedly neglected to address at least three orders by Judge Barbier, which led to him issuing a show of cause order on Aug. 20.
“The Super Lawyers failed to timely respond to this show cause order,” the suit states. “Thus, Sheri’s case was dismissed with prejudice on Jan. 31, 2019, because her claims were filed ‘significantly late or not submitted at all.’”
Dorgan is accusing the attorneys of negligence and gross negligence and seeks to recover actual and exemplary damages, plus damages for emotional distress.
Houston attorney Lance Kassab represents her.
Lanier is represented by Aaron Pool, attorney for the Houston law firm Donato, Minx, Brown & Pool.
Case No. 2019-31827