Texas law firm sued for allegedly filing incorrect Jones Act lawsuit

Michelle Massey Mar. 9, 2011, 2:16am

A Mexican national is filing a lawsuit against a Texas law firm for improperly filing a lawsuit against his employer causing his workers' compensation benefits to be terminated.

Juan Puga filed suit against The Hastings Law Firm and Tommy R. Hastings on March 3 in federal court in New Orleans.

According to the complaint, on Sept. 24, 2008, Puga was employed by Fluid Crane and Construction Inc. as a pipe welder when he was injured off the coast of Louisianan while being transferred from a vessel in a personnel basket. The lawsuit claims that Puga was solicited by the Hastings Law Firm within one week of the accident, while he was still in a Louisiana hospital.

When he signed an attorney-client contract, he was receiving compensation benefits from Fluid Crane's carrier in excess of $1,000 per week, plus all medical expenses.

The Hastings Law Firm filed a Jones Act lawsuit against Fluid Crane in Brazoria County District Court. The Hastings Law Firm argued that Puga was a Jones Act seaman and as a result, Fluid Crane terminated the compensation benefits and began paying him maintenance at $15 per day.

Puga states his employer had no exposure to liability as a result of being his employer and his non-seaman status. He states he attempted to contact the law firm about the loss of his benefits but was unable to receive a reply. He terminated their representation in December 2008.

Puga retained additional counsel which nonsuited the Brazoria County lawsuit and filed a federal lawsuit against the owners of the boat, operators of the platform and the employer of the crane operator.

The claim was settled without intervention by the Hastings Law Firm.

According to the lawsuit, the Hastings Law Firm has now filed a petition attempting to obtain 45 percent of the settlement for attorney's fees, plus other damages.

The plaintiff is asking the court to issue a declaration that the defendants were discharged for a reason and that they are only entitled to a share of attorney fees based on what it earned in the Harris County claim. Puga is also asking for an award of court costs.

Puga is represented by Charles C. Bourque, Jr., Christopher J. St. Martin and Joseph G. Jevic, III of St. Martin & Bourque in Houma.

Case No. 2:11-cv-00526

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