A former client has filed a professional negligence and breach of fiduciary duty suit against Houston lawyer George Diaz-Arrastia and his firm, Schirrmeister Diaz-Arrastia Brem, alleging they failed to properly investigate the solvency and insurance coverage of a contractor prior to filing a suit against it. Southfield Properties of Humble alleges in an Aug. 22 petition that it hired Diaz-Arrastia and Schirrmeister Diaz-Arrastia in March 2007 to sue a contractor in connection with a construction project. Southfield alleges in Southfield Properties LLC v. Schirrmeister Diaz-Arrastia Brem LLP, et al. that it asked the defendants to do an asset check on the contractor and its principals before filing suit to make sure they could satisfy a judgment. “In the alternative, if Defendants’ investigation determined that [the contractor] and its principals were unable to satisfy any significant judgment entered against them, Southfield made it clear that it did not intend to pursue litigation unless its claims were covered by a professional liability insurance policy,” Southfield alleges in the petition, filed in Harris County’s 269th District Court. Southfield alleges the defendants filed a suit against the contractor and put one of the contractor’s insurance carriers on notice of Southfield’s claims, but Diaz-Arrastia and the firm failed to first determine if the contractor and its principals had any money or if there was professional liability insurance available. Southfield alleges that after the defendants “failed” to depose any witnesses after a year and a half, it hired another lawyer to “evaluate Defendants’ performance” and to determine if a judgment could be satisfied. Southfield alleges the new counsel concluded that the contractor and its principals did not have sufficient assets to satisfy a judgment and Southfield’s claims under an insurance policy that would partially cover its claims were time-barred. Southfield seeks a judgment against Diaz-Arrastia and the firm for “all of its actual, consequential, incidental, special, and /or direct” damages, interest and attorneys’ fees. Diaz-Arrastia, a partner in Schirrmeister Diaz-Arrastia, declines to comment, except to say, “We have an arbitration agreement, which we will enforce.” Plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Evetts, of the Evetts Law Firm in Houston, says Southfield nonsuited the case against the contractor and its principals.
-- Brenda Spaino Jeffreys