The Florida Bar is searching for sanctions in opposition to a companion with a distinguished New Orleans space regulation agency, alleging that she used misleading techniques to solicit shoppers after Hurricane Ian.
The bar on Thursday filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court docket asking for an emergency suspension of the regulation licensed issued to Jennifer Perez, a companion with Gauthier, Murphy & Houghtaling. The Bar’s pleading states that GM&H parked a truck within the car parking zone of the Riverview Inn, a closed motel in North Fort Meyers, and staffed it with a “non-lawyer” who admitted to investigators that it was “typically misperceived” as belonging to the Federal Emergency Administration Company.
FEMA had been collaborating in an “insurance coverage village” that the Florida Division of Monetary Companies arrange in Fort Meyers and Port Charlotte to help hurricane victims. No attorneys are allowed in these facilities.
“Details about the Louisiana regulation agency was intentionally obscured on respondent’s ‘Cellular Declare Heart’ to create the impression that the truck is a part of FEMA or the state-run insurance coverage village, giving the Louisiana regulation agency the chance to solicit hurricane victims,” the petition says.
The Bar’s petition features a photograph of what seems to be a fifth-wheel trailer (though it’s described as a truck) and an connected air-conditioned tent. A sheet of black plastic covers the identify of the regulation agency, however doesn’t obscure the agency’s Louisiana phone quantity.
“The Louisiana regulation agency web site intentionally contains the defunct motel handle to create the impression that it has a bona fide regulation workplace in Florida,” the petition says.
The petition contains affidavits by workers investigators Karen Brown and John Berrena.
Berrena stated when he visited the positioning on Oct. 18 he encountered a person who recognized himself as Sergio Alvardo, who just isn’t an legal professional or paralegal. Alvarado informed Berrena that individuals who walked into the tent thought it was a FEMA middle. When requested if there have been any attorneys on website, Alvarado recognized John Houghtaling, a companion within the regulation agency who has an workplace in Metairie, Louisiana, the affidavit says.
Houghtaling could also be finest identified to readers of the Claims Journal because the legal professional who filed the first-ever lawsuit searching for protection for business-interruption losses brought on by COVID-19. He received a uncommon appellate courtroom victory in favor of his consumer, a New Orleans seafood restaurant.
Berrena stated he known as Houghtaling’s workplace and spoke with a paralegal who informed him that Perez was the regulation agency’s Florida legal professional.
In line with the regulation agency’s web site, Perez obtained her Juris Physician in 2018 from Loyola College in New Orleans. She admitted to the Florida Bar in Might 2020.
Brown’s affidavit says the GM&H regulation agency’s web site lists the the Riverview Inn as Perez’s handle. An indication on the door of the motel says it’s “shut.” Brown stated the paralegal informed her that Brown works from a digital workplace.
The Bar’s pleading says that Perez violated six Guidelines of Skilled Conduct that require legal professional supervision of any non-lawyer assistants, bar the unlicensed follow of regulation, prohibit the direct solicitation of shoppers and prohibit deceptive statements.
The Bar asks the Supreme Court docket to right away droop Perez’s license, bar her from contracting with any new shoppers, stop disbursing or withdrawing any cash from belief accounts and cease accepting any authorized charges.
Neither Perez nor Houghtaling might be reached for touch upon Friday.
High photograph: This display shot, taken from the Florida Bar’s petition to droop Jennifer Perez’s regulation license, exhibits the truck or trailer that was arrange exterior the Riverview Inn in North Fort Meyers.
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