Dickie Scruggs’ list of adversaries, including insurance companies generally and two sets of federal prosecutors, just got a little longer and now includes his ex-partners in the former Scruggs Katrina Group. You may remember that in a post from this morning I mentioned that the other firms in the group were kicking the Scruggs Law Firm out due to fear of being tarnished with the now unsavory Scruggs brand name.
Accordingly, Don Barrett, of the Barrett Law Office, sent a letter today to the courts in which the group’s Katrina cases were located, saying "In light of what happened in Oxford, the Scruggs Law Firm will be withdrawing from all Katrina-related litigation." The letter also said what used to be the Scruggs Katrina Group would re-form, sans the Scruggs, to handle the cases. Click here for a copy of the letter.
But Dickie Scruggs says no. He sent his own letter to the same judges: "I am afraid there is a misunderstanding. My firm and I do not intend to let down or hinder any of the families, many of whom we have known all or our lives. Obviously, anyone who wishes other counsel may simply ask, and we will honor their agreement.. I am sorry of the miscommunication." Click here to see a copy.
You know, I don’t know what kind of contract or agreement the members of the former Scruggs Katrina Group had between them, so I’m not in a position to say what is going to happen here. The other firms are surely able to leave the Scruggs Katrina Group and do their own thing, but the basic rule is that clients are always free to pick their own lawyers, and client choice is paramount. That’s why non-compete agreements are not enforceable against lawyers. However, the question is who are the clients’ lawyers before the break-up, and what type of written or oral agreements the group had in place to handle contingencies such as one firm leaving, voluntarily or otherwise. Could yet more litigation be on its way, this time between the policyholder lawyers?