San Antonio PI Lawyer Faces Another Unlawful Solicitation Suit
By Brenda Sapino Jeffreys
Kassab Law Firm, a Houston firm focused on suing lawyers, has filed a fourth Texas suit alleging San Antonio lawyer Cesar Ornelas II is involved in a conspiracy to engage in civil barratry by working with a funeral home owner to solicit potential law firm clients.
The defendants include Ornelas and his firm, Cesar Ornelas Law; Ornelas’ father (also named Cesar Ornelas) and his marketing company Group of Legal Specialties; and La Paz-Graham’s Funeral Home in New Mexico, as well as funeral home owner Salvador Perches.
The petition, filed Tuesday in state district court in Bexar County, makes the same basic allegation as previous suits filed by Kassab Law Firm, which also name lawyer Ornelas II as a defendant.
The general allegation is that the elder Ornelas—who owns funeral homes—trained funeral directors in Texas and New Mexico to refer families to his marketing company, which would then refer those families to Ornelas II’s personal injury law firm.
“In exchange, the funeral directors receive compensation and the families receive paid funeral expenses,” the Bexar County petition alleged.
In an interview Friday, David Kassab declined to say whether Kassab Law Firm will file additional suits alleging barratry against the Ornelases and funeral home owners.
“We don’t want to show our cards,” Kassab said.
However, Kassab noted that plaintiff Helen Castruita of El Paso, the most recent plaintiff, contacted his firm after she heard about the allegations in one of the prior-filed petitions.
“Clearly, this wasn’t an isolated incident. It appears—at least from the things that we have seen—this is a business practice of Ornelas and his father. I suspect there are other victims out there,” Kassab said.
In the latest suit, Castruita alleged she was solicited when she went to La Paz-Graham’s Funeral Home in 2017 after her 3-year-old son died in a house fire in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She alleged funeral home owner Perches solicited her to hire Cesar Ornelas Law, and in fact called lawyer Ornelas from the funeral home and “put him on speaker” so she could talk to him.
As a result of that solicitation, the petition alleged, Castruita signed a contract with Ornelas Law Firm.
Lawyer Ornelas did not immediately return a telephone message seeking a comment on the allegations in Castruita’s suit. But he has denied the allegations in the three suits filed earlier this year, which are pending.
Perches did not immediately return a call to his business seeking comment. Funeral home owner Ornelas also did not return a call seeking comment on the allegations.
In the petition, Castruita brings barratry, civil conspiracy and aiding and abetting causes of action against the defendants, and seeks statutory damages totaling at least $240,0000 along with attorney fees.