Defense Attorneys Appeal Ruling in Class-Action Case

Defense Attorneys Appeal Ruling in Class-Action Case

Three defense attorneys last week followed the path of the plaintiffs' attorneys and filed notice that they will appeal Chief U.S. District Court Judge P.K. Holmes III's finding that they abused the court system in their manipulation of a controversial class-action case.

The defense attorneys who are appealing are Lyn P. Pruitt, a member at Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard of Little Rock; Wystan Ackerman, a partner at Robinson & Cole LLP of Hartford, Connecticut; and Stephen Edward Goldman, a managing partner at Robinson Cole.

Earlier this month, Holmes found they had abused the judicial process, but he did not sanction them because he said their misconduct did not didn't rise to the level of bad faith.

The question on appeal is whether Holmes made a mistake in concluding that the defense attorneys abused the judicial process. The defense attorneys are being represented by attorney David Matthews of Rogers.

On Aug. 8, 12 plaintiffs' attorneys filed notice that they would appeal Holmes' finding that they abused the court system in the class-action case. Holmes reprimand five of the plaintiffs' attorneys, including John Goodson of Texarkana — the husband of a state Supreme Court justice — because he found that they acted in bad faith in their handling of the case. The other seven attorneys weren't reprimanded because their abuse didn't rise to the level of bad faith.

The case at the root of the controversy was Mark and Katherine Adams v. United Services Automobile Association. The Adams case, which concerned the method used to calculate homeowners' insurance claims, was pending in Holmes' court for 17 months until both sides jointly agreed to dismiss it in June 2015. (Under court rules, the judge did not have to approve the agreed dismissal.)

The case was refiled the next day, with a settlement agreement attached, in Polk County Circuit Court, where the settlement was approved without any questions by Circuit Judge Jerry Ryan.

Holmes, who learned that the case was moved to Ryan's court for settlement from an article in Arkansas Business in December, said the settlement that was negotiated "benefited everyone but the class members" and indicated that he would not have approved it had the case still been in his court.

The attorneys have maintained they didn't do anything wrong in moving the case to state court.