In a petition filed on Jan. 30 in the 190th District Court in Harris County, New Process Steel alleges Richie and his firm represented it “for an extended period of time” in several matters – both litigation and transactional – but Richie was negligent on numerous occasions and/or charged an “unreasonable, unconscionable, or excessive fee” for the work. The plaintiffs allege all of the “specific acts” in the petition are attributable to Richie, but the firm is jointly and severally liable.
“It’s hard to know from the pleadings what their allegations are,” Richie says. “I have represented New Process Steel and the Fant family for over 32 years. I’m confident my work has provided great benefit to the family and to New Process Steel.”
According to a history of New Process Steel on the company’s website, Eugene Fant bought the company in 1952 and his son Richard was named president in 1995.
In New Process Steel, LP v. Sheldon E. Richie, individually, et al. New Process Steel alleges Richie charged it contingency fees, an hourly fee or both for the work, but much of the litigation “served only to further Richie’s interests through the payment of fees” and it “did not benefit” the plaintiff.
“Richie’s long standing history of negligent handling or and/or charging and collecting unreasonable and/or unconscionable fees for legal services purportedly rendered, includes, but is not limited to, fees charged in relation to the partially completed condemnation proceedings involving Plaintiff’s Houston, Harris County, Texas property and the relocation of Plaintiff’s business operations,” New Process Steel alleges in the petition.
New Process Steel brings negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action against Richie and the firm. It also alleges the defendants are liable under the Texas Deceptive Trade and Practices Act.
New Process Steel seeks unspecified actual damages, fee forfeiture, and punitive damages from the defendants, treble damages under the DTPA and attorney fees. Plaintiff’s attorney Brett Wagner, of Doherty ★ Wagner of Houston, says actual damages and fee forfeiture total “well into the seven figures.”
Richie says “everything I’ve done has created tremendous value” for New Process Steel. He notes that in 2010, he successfully argued an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for New Process Steel in New Process Steel L.P. v. National Labor Relations Board.
―Brenda Sapino Jeffreys