On Thursday, July 19, the original class action lawsuit against the Pedernales Electric Cooperative with Lee Beck Lawrence as named plaintiff was dismissed without prejudice at 3:34 p.m. by District Court Judge John Dietz in Austin.
According to court records, earlier that same day, at 8:40 a.m., a new class action lawsuit had been filed against the PEC with John Worrall as the lead plaintiff representing the class.
Jan Soifer, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in both suits said this week, “The new class action was filed to avoid a protracted battle about what all counsel acknowledged was simply a ‘technical issue’ in the original suit.”
Bearing a new case file number, the 40 page suit re-filed last Thursday morning contains the same allegations against the PEC and its officers and directors, as were alleged in the original suit.
On Friday, July 20, the PEC sent a press release to the news media in their service area that said in its entirety: “A class action lawsuit originally filed against Pedernales Electric and its officers and directors by Lee Beck Lawrence has been dismissed following a PEC motion to confirm the dismissal of the case. Judge John Dietz of the 250th Judicial Civil District Court in Travis County granted PEC’s motion after Lawrence had withdrawn from the case. Pedernales Electric had previously filed court documents showing Lawrence’s husband was serving as one of her lawyers. After PEC noted the conflict of interest, the plaintiff’s attorneys attempted to replace Lawrence with four new plaintiffs without properly dismissing the original case. Pedernales Electric argued that such a substitution violated legal procedure.”
The existence of a new lawsuit alleging the same violations of fiduciary duty, excessive compensation, breach of bylaws and failure to account for patronage capital was not mentioned in the PEC press release.
If the parties to the suit cannot agreed to a docket control order setting out a timetable for discovery and progress in the suit, a hearing is set for Friday, July 27, at 3 p.m. for the judge to determine these issues.
A review of the new lawsuit revealed little substantive change in its allegations. However, a new law firm has been added to represent the plaintiffs.
Graham Kerin Blair with Baker & McKenzie LLP has joined Soifer of Lawrence Soifer Satija LLP and William Ikard of Ikard Wynne & Ratliff LLP as counsel for the plaintiffs.
The law firm of Baker & McKenzie is reputed to be the largest global firm with over 3,400 attorneys practicing in 38 countries. Blair is listed as managing partner and head of the litigation group in the firm’s Houston office. According to the firm’s website, Blair “was named a Texas Super Lawyer in business litigation for 2005 and 2006.”