At least 103 Texas counties have retained counsel for opioid suits – 19 don’t appear to have approved contingent fee contracts
By David Yates
HOUSTON – At least 103 out of the 254 counties in the state of Texas have retained counsel to represent them in opioid litigation, according to records obtained by The Record.
And out of those 103 counties, 19 appear to have failed to have their contingency fee contracts approved, even though most of those counties have already gone ahead and filed an opioid lawsuit.
For the past several years, Texas trial lawyers have engaged in an all-out scramble to sign up state municipalities for opioid lawsuits. So much so, many of the suits had to be ushered into an MDL court in Harris County last June.
The rush to file also led to new a law being passed by the Texas Legislature this past session, ensuring the state’s chief lawyer has the final say when the next litigation boom comes along.
HB 2826 was enacted to bring transparency to how local governments go about hiring law firms and move contingency fee contract approval out of the hands of the Texas Comptroller’s Office and into to lap of the attorney general.
But before the law went into effect on Sept. 1, it appears more than a dozen Texas counties failed to have their contracts approved by the Comptroller’s Office, records show.
Most of the contracts without approval belong to counties that hired Simon Greenstone Panatier, a Dallas law firm specializing in toxic torts and pharmaceutical litigation.
Apparently, the firm does not have approved contracts on six counties, Bee, Dimmit, Kendall, McMullen, Shelby and Trinity, according to records obtained by The Record.
Opioid lawsuits are on file for all six of these counties.
In four of the counties, Bee, Dimmit, Kendall and McMullen, there is no record of contract submission at all to the Comptroller’s Office.
As far as the other two counties, Shelby and Trinity, the contracts were submitted but there is no record of approval.
The Record reached out to firm partner Jeffrey Simon for comment but was told he was in trial and could not respond.
Another law firm apparently representing Texas counties in opioid litigation without approved contracts is The Snapka Law Firm in Corpus Christi.
Records show the firm is representing Duval County, Jim Hogg County, and Kleberg County.
Contracts were submitted to the Comptroller’s Office for these counties, but were submitted too late in the case of Jim Hogg and Kleberg Counties and Duval County’s submission was incomplete.
An opioid lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Duval County.
The Snapka Law Firm did not seek the Comptroller’s approval of these contracts until late August 2019, even though the contracts for these counties were signed in March, 2018, records show.
Firm founder Kathryn Snapka did not respond to requests for comment.
The other counties without contract approval are as follows:
– Brazos County, no record of submission with suit filed, Fears Nachawati;
– Kaufman County, submitted but abandoned with suit filed, Fears Nachawati;
– Kenedy County, no record of submission with no record of suit filed, Phipps Deacon Purnell;
– Kinney County, no record of submission with suit filed, Haley & Olson;
– Mitchell County, no record of submission with suit filed, Haley & Olson;
– Rockwall County, no record of submission with suit filed, Fears Nachawati;
– San Patricio County, contract submitted but no record of approval with suit filed, Phipps Deacon Purnell;
– Stephens County, no record of submission with suit filed, Fears Nachawati;
– Throckmorton County, no record of submission with suit filed, Haley & Olson; and
– Chambers County, submitted but abandoned with no record of suit filed, Reich & Binstock.
A year from now, the first Texas bellwether trial of an opioid lawsuit is slated to take place in Dallas County.