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This is where these lawyers need to be.

Melvin Addison said he doesn’t know how he became a client of McClenny, Moseley & Associates, the Houston-based law firm he found himself in a federal courtroom with this month. Sitting before U.S. District Judge James D. Cain on Dec. 13, Addison seemed confused and defeated as he described his dealings with the firm. “I never got to talk to a lawyer,” Addison told the judge. “Nothing ever goes through.” The McClenny firm is handling a massive volume of hurricane insurance claims across Louisiana, including at least 1,500 that were filed just in time to meet a two-year deadline for claims related to 2020’s Hurricane Laura. But it’s found itself in hot water in the Western District of Louisiana. In October, Cain ordered a stay on all of the firm’s cases pending further review, citing concerns that some of the cases might be duplicates or otherwise not fit to proceed. Now, those concerns have escalated, with Cain and at least one local lawyer wondering whether the firm’s practices might have crossed the line from problematic to criminal.

How can you not know you have a lawyer unless there is fraud?

Addison, for example, never even realized McClenny was working on his behalf, despite a retainer agreement the firm held up in court that bears his electronic signature. Addison’s mortgage company, which was supposed to be paid by Addison’s insurer at McClenny’s demand, also never got paid. “I’m concerned for your clients,” Cain told William Huye, who leads the firm’s Louisiana office, in court. Huye said in a later interview that he is confident that his firm was cleared to represent Addison. He didn’t address the claim that Addison’s mortgage company never received payment. “We’d be happy to go through the audit trail,” Huye said. “We did represent Mr. Addison.” Addison has since been released as a client of McClenny’s and is now being represented solely by local law firm Cox Cox Filo Camel & Wilson.

The firm is coming under attack which is needed to figure this out.

After McClenny sued on behalf of more than 1,500 clients over the span of two and a half months, Cain raised pointed questions about the firm’s practices, from how it finds clients to how deeply it looks into each case before filing suit. The number and timing of cases is suspicious, Cain has said. In total, he has handled about 7,000 such cases since the hurricane hit two years ago. Most firms, he noted, submitted a maximum of 200 or 300 cases ahead of the August deadline. McClenny attorneys maintain they are simply using their firm’s technology and large staff to help as many people as possible. In his courtroom on Dec. 13, he interrogated McClenny’s attorneys over their business practices in a series of hearings, using cases like Addison’s as examples. Addison, who is disabled and self-identified as low-income, said he couldn’t have signed the agreement to hire McClenny even if he wanted to, as his government-issued cellphone doesn’t support the technology. Similar questions were raised about a check from Addison’s insurer, Allstate, that McClenny deposited. After McClenny reached an $89,500 settlement with Allstate, the insurer cut a check for that amount and made it out to the law firm’s offices, Addison and his mortgage holder, Accord Services. Usually, all parties would endorse the check as part of the process for releasing the funds, and the mortgage company would be entitled to a portion of the proceeds. But a representative for Accord told Cain said he never knew the check existed. “I’ve never seen this check,” said Accord owner Kermith Sonnier. It had been stamped by the McClenny firm, claiming power of attorney, a practice Cain and Sonnier’s attorney said was problematic and potentially criminal. “This is illegal, it’s improper and it’s stealing money from my client,” Todd Townsley, Sonnier’s attorney, told the court. “I think it’s a criminal forgery.”

The firms response was less than sterling.

Huye said little in response to that claim. “I’m not happy about the allegations that are being raised,” he told Cain. “I just don’t have the information to refute them at this time.” Huye said his firm has since complied with the court’s order to transfer the funds to Addison’s new attorneys. “If something was done improperly or incorrectly, we will make it right,” he said. In another hearing that afternoon, Cain identified a number of cases in which plaintiffs didn’t appear to be insured by the companies they were suing. It’s not just locals Cain is concerned about. In the wake of Hurricane Ida, the firm started an aggressive outreach effort to the storm’s survivors in southeast Louisiana, blanketing metropolitan New Orleans with solicitation letters. Its advertising practices are now being probed by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, according to public records reviewed by The Advocate. Keionne Jackson, 43, of New Orleans, is one of McClenny’s Ida clients. Ida barreled through Jackson’s home last August, damaging it from the roof down to the electric wiring. She hired McClenny to file suit against her insurer, Progressive Insurance. The two parties reached a settlement almost a year later, in June, and Progressive issued two checks and sent them to the law firm. But come November, Jackson had yet to receive any money. The firm kept the checks, citing a high number of clients as a reason for the delay. “They have been giving me the run-around for almost a year,” Jackson said.

Jackson is in money problems because of the lack of checks that were sent.

She has since received two checks totaling $95,000, with the most recent check arriving on Dec. 16, more than half a year after it was first issued by her insurer. Insurers are required by state law to issue checks within 30 days of receiving proof of property damage, or they risk penalties. Jackson had to dig into her dwindling savings to make home repairs and rely on her adult children’s help to pay bills. She also got help this summer from a city program that covered her mortgage payments Otherwise, she said, “I would have lost my house, I would have lost everything because of them.” In an email, a legal assistant with the firm informed Jackson that its accounting department was working through a “significant volume of settlement checks” at the moment and that her patience was appreciated. Cain, on Tuesday, accused the firm of putting profits over clients and taking on more than its lawyers could handle. “Maybe y’all got away with this before,” Cain said. “You will not get away with this with me.”

The firm defends itself.

Huye said that the number of clients the firm has taken on was a benefit rather than a disadvantage to clients. “Because they’re part of such a large collective, we have more power,” he said. Delays in processing checks were mainly caused by the onerous process of working with mortgage companies who have to endorse them, an industrywide issue, he noted. The firm has repeatedly claimed its multimillion-dollar case management system was designed to handle high caseloads and that any erroneous or duplicate filings were not signs of systemic flaws. In court, Huye also reiterated the firm’s commitment to helping the community recover and denied accusations of putting profits over people. “I’m happy to rise to the occasion,” Huye said. “Whatever we need to do to help this community is what we’re going to do.” In a last-ditch effort at the end of a full day of hearings, Huye and his colleague asked for cases to be released from the stay at a faster clip, a request Cain denied. The judge has expressed concerns the firm would try to mass mediate them, which he argues is bad for plaintiffs. “You’re going to represent these people,” Cain said. “You’re going to give their cases the attention they deserve.” As the firm expands its reach to the southeastern part of the state and nearby Florida, where Hurricane Ian wreaked widespread destruction this year, Cain said he hopes the contentious hearings will help spread the word about McClenny’s questionable practices. “If nothing else comes of this, I hope the Eastern District [of Louisiana] caught wind of you guys,” Cain told the firm’s attorneys. “I don’t trust you.”

You don’t have insurance you are inn trouble. You do and file a claim and get a bad lawyer you are in trouble. Are the decks stacked against us?

Houston Law Firm does bad
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