The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) has denied all allegations in a suit that claims the organization was negligent in another suit in which it assigned one of its attorneys to represent CLEAT-member plaintiffs.
Seventeen members sued CLEAT for negligence, alleging that Tom Stribling, the association’s lawyer who represented them in a 2007 employment matter, failed to serve their suit on the defendant. A court eventually ruled the statute of limitations had expired on those claims, according to the Dec. 28, 2012, original petition in Anderson et al v. CLEAT.
In a Jan. 22 original answer, CLEAT denies all the allegations.
“We’re defending the case diligently,” says Michael Rickman, director of legal services for CLEAT. He confirms Stribling used to be a CLEAT senior staff attorney in Austin, and declines further comment. CLEAT assists members with representation in legal matters, among other services, according to the CLEAT website.
According to the petition, the 17 plaintiffs are current or former employees of the City of Austin and members of CLEAT. They allege CLEAT assigned Stribling to bring an employment claim against the city. He “was the agent or employee of the Defendant” and the representation was in the scope of his employment, says the petition, filed in Travis County’s 353rd District Court.
The plaintiffs allege Stribling sent a letter notifying the city about the claims in November 2006. In April 2007, Stribling filed the suit but it “was not served on the defendant.”
Stribling “was eventually replaced,” and in April 2011, the suit was served on the city. But a court later granted the city’s motion for summary judgment, which argued the statute of limitations barred the claims.
The plaintiffs allege CLEAT, acting through “its agents or employees including but not limited to Mr. Stribling,” was negligent in not serving the city with the suit. The plaintiffs seek actual damages pre- and post-judgment interest, and costs.
But CLEAT’s lawyer, Davis & Wright shareholder Mark Holbrook of Austin, says, in the 17 plaintiffs’ suit against the City of Austin, there was a “split the baby verdict” in which neither side prevailed. Either the plaintiffs or defendant may appeal based on the outcome of some undecided motions, Holbrook says.
“The legal malpractice case is not ripe yet. … The underlying case, has not been resolved yet,” Holbrook says.
Plaintiff’s attorney Jay Winckler of Winckler & Harvey in Austin, and Stribling, now the city ombudsperson in the City of Austin Labor Relations Office, each didn’t return a telephone message seeking comment before deadline.
― Angela Morris