An insurance company that issued an “excess liability” policy in 2010 to John M. O’Quinn & Associates, doing business as the O’Quinn Law Firm, filed a complaint on Sept. 21 seeking a declaratory judgment that the policy provides no coverage for the firm and related parties in an ongoing negligence suit.
The defendants named in the complaint filed by Ironshore Indemnity Inc. of New York City include the Houston-based O’Quinn firm and T. Gerald Treece, the executor of the estate of John M. O’Quinn. O’Quinn, a prominent plaintiffs lawyer, died in October 2009 following an automobile accident in Houston.
In Ironshore Indemnity Inc. v. John M. O’Quinn & Associates PLLC, D/B/A The O’Quinn Law Firm, et al., Ironshore alleges it issued the excess liability insurance policy to John M. O’Quinn & Associates with a policy period of Sept. 26, 2010, to Sept. 26, 2011. Ironshore also alleges the underlying negligence suit, House, et al. v. The O’Quinn Law Firm, et al., was filed in connection with alleged “acts or omissions” that occurred before the policy was issued. Ironshore alleges in the complaint that it has notified the O’Quinn firm that it is “reserving” all of its rights under the policy, and it wants a declaratory judgment that the House claim is not covered by the policy.
Dale Jefferson, a partner in Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom in Houston who represents Treece in House, says Ironshore filed its complaint seeking a declaratory judgment prematurely because House is still in discovery with no trial date. “This is kind of a pre-emptive strike,” Jefferson says.
House was filed in April 2011. In the petition, originally filed in Harris County state district court, the plaintiffs, a group of former O’Quinn Law Firm clients, allege the defendants overcharged them for expenses in silicosis suits, failed to distribute some silicosis settlements and communicate information about them, and were negligent in handling claims against some bankrupt silica defendants.
The defendants in House, which include the O’Quinn firm, O’Quinn’s estate and others, deny the allegations.
In July 2011, House was transferred to Probate Judge Mike Wood’s Houston court. A trial date has not been set.
Jeffrey Parsons, a partner in Beirne, Maynard & Parsons in Houston who represents Ironshore, declines comment. Don McFall, a shareholder in McFall, Breitbeil & Smith in Houston who represents the O’Quinn Law Firm, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys