CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - The O'Quinn Law Firm made millions from its "silicosis litigation machine" by deducting unauthorized expenses from clients, "squandering" money, and failing to deliver settlement money, 31 clients claim in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Frank Bates sued The O'Quinn Law Firm, its current and former attorneys and law firms that referred silica cases to the firm.
The plaintiffs are all residents of Mississippi or Alabama.
John O'Quinn founded The O'Quinn Law Firm fka O'Quinn & Laminack with partner Richard Laminack, also a defendant. The firm has handled major litigation, including a $1 billion Fen-Phen diet drug case, a multibillion-dollar tobacco case for the state of Texas, and a major silicone breast implant case, according to publicly available information.
O'Quinn died in a car crash on a wet highway on Oct. 29, 2009.
In the 51-page lawsuit, Bates claims he and the other plaintiffs were diagnosed as having silicosis by medical professionals handpicked by The O'Quinn Law Firm.
"Plaintiffs, like other Silicosis Clients, were solicited by attorneys and other individuals, law firms, or screening companies to undergo medical screening to determine if they had silicosis," the complaint states "Plaintiffs were then solicited to enter into contracts with law firms who promised to litigate their silicosis claims against the Silicosis Defendants.
"These law firms subsequently referred plaintiffs to O'Quinn. As much as 98 percent of O'Quinn's silicosis docket came from referring law firms."
Bates claims The O'Quinn Law Firm represented around 3,000 clients in the silica litigation.
Of those 3,000 cases, roughly 1,000 were filed in Texas state courts, while the majority were filed in Mississippi and transferred to Mississippi Multi-District Litigation No. 1553, Bates says.
The O'Quinn Law Firm and its attorneys would "either personally or through medical screening companies, would advise the Silicosis Clients, including plaintiffs, to travel to various places throughout Texas to undergo medical exams by screening companies and medical professionals hand-picked by the Firm and its attorneys," the complaint states.
Bates says the medical companies included N&M Inc. and Repertory Services Inc., which set up trailers to "perform the screenings which often occurred in the parking lot of hotels, strip malls or restaurants."
Neither N&M or Repertory Services are named as defendants.
The complaint states: "In January of 2002, attorneys at O'Quinn received a memorandum from N&M, outlining the 'list of charges [the attorneys had] requested.' The charges read:
"Chest x-ray $35
"Full exam medicals with PFT $300
"Full exam medicals with PFT (N&M refers) $650
"According to the memo, if N&M, a non-lawyer, referred the client to O'Quinn, the Firm would pay N&M an additional $350 referral fee for the case. Such conduct amounts to no less than barratry and is a violation of the Texas Penal Code and TX Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
"This occurred on numerous occasions and several plaintiffs were charged the entire $650 to $750 as expenses in their case. Thus, not only did the Firm pay N&M an extra $350 to $450 to 'buy' plaintiffs as clients, but the Firm then turned around and billed the extra $350 to $450 to plaintiffs as expenses in their case.