Court rules that attorney in alleged I-10 semi-truck accident scheme must supply client list

By Takesha Thomas | Feb 13, 2019

A district court has granted, in part, a motion to quash information in a lawsuit involving a law firm that represents multiple persons who are alleged to be involved in a motor vehicle accident scheme. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Janis van Meerveld granted, on Jan. 31, 2019, Motta Law's motion to quash a subpoena issued by the attorneys for Robert L. Runnels. Runnels, a semi-truck driver for Whitestone Transportation, was involved in a 2017 motor vehicle accident along Interstate 10 in New Orleans.

Runnels is accused of causing the accident involving Dimitri Frazier, Tiffany Turner and Adonte Turner. Frazier and the Turners are represented by Vanessa Motta of Motta Law. 

Judge van Meerveld's ruling requires that, "By Feb. 22, 2019, Motta Law will respond to the subpoena as modified herein: the first request is limited to letters of representation sent by Motta Law to a third party concerning any claimant involved in a motor vehicle accident with a commercial vehicle on Interstate 10 in New Orleans between the Franklin Avenue exit and the Little Woods exit from 2016 through the present for files originated by Motta Law or brought with Ms. Motta from her previous law firm when she opened Motta Law in April 2017." 

Attorneys for Whitestone allege that Frazier and the Turners have been involved in not only the November 2017 motor vehicle accident involving Runnels, but also staging numerous other accidents along I-10. In April 2018, Whitestone filed a counterclaim alleging that, "as a result of Plaintiffs misrepresenting and/or staging the accident and/or injuries at issue in this lawsuit, Defendants have suffered damages, including attorney’s fees and litigation expenses." 

According to the filing, Whitestone alleges that their semi-truck did not experience any type of impact consistent with a motor vehicle accident, adding that "the data system on board the 18-wheeler did not document any type of impact." In discovery, Whitestone claims to have discovered, "30 other accidents with similar factual scenarios to the present accident, where on a particular stretch of Interstate-10 near New Orleans, an unknown third vehicle waves down an 18-wheeler driver that is unaware that he/she was allegedly involved in an accident."

In each of the 77 cases, according to the attorneys for Whitestone, all of the accident victims retained Vanessa Motta of Motta Law as their attorney. Motta had argued that the information that was being requested was privileged under the Louisiana Rule of Professional Conduct. Attorneys for Whitestone argued that one of the exceptions to this rule is when the attorney is complying with a court order. 

The court also ruled that, "The second request will be satisfied by a sworn declaration signed by Ms. Motta under penalty of perjury in which she identifies which of the individuals listed on the list of 77 cases she has represented at any time." Judge van Meerveld also required that Whitestone will pay Motta Law’s "reasonable expenses in responding to the subpoena."

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