(CN) — JM Eagle, the country’s largest manufacturer of plastic piping, filed a multimillion-dollar legal malpractice lawsuit against law firm Walsworth, claiming the firm cozied up to plaintiff firms who sued the company in asbestos lawsuits and was too willing to settle such cases.
In a complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, the company alleges that it lost millions of dollars in asbestos cases due to the law firm pursuing “a self-serving, ‘settle-always’ strategy, which valued the needs of the firm, and Walsworth’s comfortable relationships with plaintiff asbestos firms, over the best interests of its client.”
“By always recommending settlement, Walsworth ensured profits from its conducting modest, if not basic discovery, maintained friendly codependencies with the plaintiffs’ bar, and avoided jeopardizing their standing with JMM any risk of failure at trial,” the company stated in its complaint.
JM Eagle, or J-M Manufacturing (JMM), has long been targeted by lawsuits for previously selling pipes made with asbestos in the 1980s, though the company has stopped selling such products for decades.
In its lawsuit, JM Eagle noted that Walsworth became the company’s exclusive asbestos defense firm in 2007, representing it in more than 400 cases and collecting about $20 million in legal fees.
The company claims in its lawsuit that the law firm’s adopted strategy of relying on settlement agreements led to disastrous results in a 2018 case that led to a jury trial and a judgment of more than $21 million in Norris Morgan, et al. v. J-M Manufacturing Company, Inc., et al.
“The Morgan Action was a defensible claim that Walsworth was unable to either settle or effectively try to a jury due to its appalling lack of pre-trial preparation,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, Walsworth’s utter lack of preparation, abysmal trial performance and multiple blunders, resulted in perceived weakness leading to increased settlement demands, and, ultimately, a whopping plaintiffs verdict against JMM, as described herein.”
“The shocking result unsurprisingly led immediately to higher demands and more attenuated creative causation arguments by plaintiff firms,” they added.
The company alleges that Walsworth attorneys made a number of mistakes during the trial and failed to rely on asbestos defense strategies they had been trained in. They also claim the law firm carried out a “substandard investigation,” made poor “trial preparation efforts after discovery” and its “trial performance appreciably worsened JMM’s litigation posture, liability exposure and settlement position.”
JM Eagle is seeking recovery of all attorneys’ fees paid to Walsworth for the Morgan case, as well as economic and punitive damages.