Houston Law Firm Sues Student With Severe Back Injuries For $200k After She Posts Negative Reviews To Yelp, Facebook
from the lead-attorney-pours-gasoline-on-own-head,-lights-match,-hurls-self-into-nearest dept
A Houston law firm has decided to make its mark on the world much in the same way a rogue house pet makes its mark on an expensive Oriental rug. The Tuan A. Khuu law firm has decided it has "no choice" but to sue a 20-year-old student suffering from two broken bones in her back following a collision with two vehicles -- one of them being the drunk driver who started the chain reaction.
The student (Lan Cai) first met representatives from the Khuu law office in her own bedroom, while still in her underwear.
Cai had never been in a major accident before, and she needed help from the attorneys while navigating insurance and proving her entitlement to damages. But when the attorneys came to her home, entered her bedroom (the attorneys maintain Cai's mother told them to go in) and then ignored her phone calls and emails in the days immediately after Cai signed the contract, she felt like hiring them was a mistake.
The hiring was a mistake. The firing was apparently also a mistake, especially after Cai headed to her Facebook page and Yelp to express her displeasure with Khuu. These negative reviews resulted in multiple calls and emails from the firm threatening legal action if she did not remove the "dispariging (sic)" review. The firm would have "no choice" but to do this, despite really having no legal or rational reason to do so.
Here's the entirety of the "dispariging" review the firm calls defamatory.
After 3 days, they didn't tell me anything about the doctor I needed to go to. I was in a lot of pain. Not only that, they didn't know where the hell my car was! And they came to my house and into my room to talk to me when I was sleeping in my underwear. Seriously, it's super unprofessional! ...I came in to the office to meet with my previous attorney, but he literally ran off.
Khuu attorney Keith Nguyen is the frontmouth for the firm and appears to regret nothing about suing a 20-year-old waitress who's trying to put herself through school. He claims Cai's review left out certain details and skewed others.
For example, when Cai says that her lawyer “literally ran off” when she showed up unannounced, Nguyen concedes he was on his way out the door, but took a moment to explain to her why there were liens on her insurance. The lawyers who went into her room had no idea she was in her underwear and say they were invited in, Nguyen explained. “It puts us in a bad light,” Nguyen said. “I said [to her], You can say that, but you need to add that we were invited. And she never did. She went ahead and wrote more bad things.”
It takes more than a difference in perspective to turn "bad things" into actionable defamatory statements. Nguyen is an attorney and presumably should know this. Nguyen also, presumably, is an inhabitant of this planet and partakes of the internet, so he should know what sort of effect is triggered by baseless legal bullying.
And, as part of the Khuu firm, he should also be aware that Cai isn't an anomaly. Even before the internet backlash kicked in the door of the firm's Yelp page (which now sports a warning from Yelp that it will remove positive/negative reviews that appear to be solely motivated by media coverage of the ongoing debacle), the law office wasn't exactly known for its stellar customer service. Meagan Flynn of the Houston Press points out that the Khuu law offices' Yelp pages are littered with negative reviews.
[G]ood reviews are hard to find, no matter which of the law firm's three locations you search. A guy named Han in Richardson, Texas, wrote, “Duped and filthy legal services. They trap you in their plan and dupe you out for their own goods. Stay away to protect yourself and your family.” A guy named Kevin from Austin: “They like to delay responses and make excuses for not returning calls. Incompetent and unreliable are the words I would use to describe their staff.” Charlie from Houston: “I went in for a 'free consultation' and it became a decision I would soon regret.”
In addition to the inevitable Streisanding, the Khuu law firm has also jabbed a stick into a hornet's nest of lawyers with low tolerance for bullying bullshit. So far, the law office's decision to sue a student for $200,000 has already attracted offers of assistance from Popehat's Ken White, First Amendment Badass (Texas Div.) Mark W. Bennett, and Scott Greenfield, whose undying curmudgeonliness (and undying AOL email address) are perfectly complemented by the number of fucks he gives about jabbing back at stupid attorneys. If this is just the initial response to the Khuu office legal threats, it's time to invest heavily in popcorn futures.
The immediate good news is that Lan Cai is now represented, pro bono, by Houston attorney Michael Fleming. Fleming hopes to flip this bogus lawsuit back on the Khuu law firm by using Texas' anti-SLAPP law -- the Texas Citizens Participation Act -- and extract $50,000 from the firm for the trouble it's caused. He also points out that the firm's reputation was pretty much an open sewage line well before Cai expressed her opinion, so it's unlikely the office can prove yet another negative review caused any actual damage to the firm itself.