Former clients accuse three Orleans Parish attorneys of malpractice

Michelle Massey Aug. 16, 2010, 6:29am


Three Orleans Parish attorneys are accused of malpractice by former clients who blame the lawyers for several unsuccessful lawsuits.

Seth Howard Martin, Jr. and Lionel Henry Lions, Jr. filed a lawsuit against attorneys Victor A. Farrugia, Rachel Martin Deckleman and James A. Arruebarrena Aug. 11 in Orleans Parish District Court.

Martin and Lions say they hired Arruebarrena to represent them in employment discrimination and civil rights suits against two former employers. The men say they signed a fee agreement that stated Arruebarrena would be responsible for all costs associated with the cases.

According to the complaint, Arruebarrena became ill and turned the litigation over to attorney Victor Farrugia. Martin and Lions say they signed the same fee agreement with Farrugia.

Martin and Lions say the discrimination lawsuits were dismissed in August 2009. The men allege the dismissals were caused by negligence or intentional actions by Farrugia and his staff. Martin and Lions say the attorneys failed to get key evidence, file necessary documents or handle the case properly with the court.

The hostile work environment civil rights claims went to trial but were also dismissed. Martin and Lions allege attorney negligence is to blame for that dismissal as well. They allege Farrugia and his staff failed to properly prepare for the case and failed to properly prepare, depose and question key witnesses. Martin and Lions say Farrugia also ignored important evidence that could have affected the outcome of the case. They claim the negligence or intentional acts amount to legal malpractice.

They are seeking all damages due to the dismissal of their cases, compensation for mental anguish and depression, medical expenses, loss of enjoyment of life and interest.

In addition, Martin is suing the defendants for money he says was garnished from his paycheck after the dismissed suits. According to the petition, Martin's former employer was awarded about $4,500 in court costs. Based on the fee agreement, Martin says Farrugia was responsible for those costs. Martin says Farrugia initially agreed but later refused to pay the fees. Martin claims he asked Farrugia to handle the issue through arbitration but says Farrugia refused.

Earlier this year, Martin says a judge ordered his wages be garnished by his employer. The garnishment began in March and is expected to total nearly $5,220.

Because of the garnishment, Martin says he suffered severe emotional distress and was required to seek counseling.

Martin is seeking reimbursement for the garnished amount of $5,220, compensation for mental anguish and depression, medical expenses, loss of enjoyment of life, attorney fees, court costs and interest.

Martin and Lions are represented by attorney Anundra Martin Dillon of Marrero.

Case no. 10-8259

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