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Firm sues ex-client over Yelp review that claims firm will ‘take everything you’ve got’

Posted Jul 14, 2014 6:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Texas law firm has sued a former client over a negative Yelp review, posted after the firm sued the client for attorney fees.

Grissom & Thompson claims in the June 24 lawsuit (PDF) that Austin resident Joseph Browning defamed the law firm with the May 9 review, Texas Lawyer (sub. req.) reports. According to the complaint, the review was disparaging and “blatantly false,” with no basis in fact.

The review, attached to the complaint, was signed by “Joe B.” He claimed his company hired Grissom & Thompson for “a simple breach of contract case with the facts heavily in our favor” but soon his lawyer’s “incompetence came out.”

Joe B. claimed that the firm missed deadlines, flip-flopped on tactics, and “couldn’t even get the basic facts of the case straight after burning through 20 hours of billable time.” Eventually, attorney fees eclipsed the claim value of the case, Joe B. said. His company “let the suit go,” closed down and fired six employees.

It was his experience and opinion, Joe B. wrote, “that this firm not only won’t help you—they intend to do you harm if they can’t extract enough money out of you in a manner which is expedient to them. They are disorganized, deceptive, manipulative and largely disrespected because they are selfish and incapable of showing empathy towards their clients.”

The firm “will take everything you’ve got,” Joe B. wrote in conclusion. “They will not defend you. They will hurt you. This is their motive. That is their intent.”

Browning told Texas Lawyer his review is “exactly accurate” and “outside of the opinions in it, there is nothing misrepresented.” He said his defunct company, Covenant Exchange, bought items and fixed them for resale on eBay.

Grissom & Thompson obtained a judgment for more than $4,000 in unpaid fees against Browning after he didn’t defend himself in the litigation. The law firm’s lawyer, Kirk Fulk, says the firm has yet to collect.

The new suit, Fulk said, “is not about the money. I would be shocked and amazed if [the firm’s name partners] even got their filing fees back from Mr. Browning. It's purely a matter of principle and personality. They don't want their names slandered."

Fulk says he has known name partners Don Grissom and Bill Thompson since the early 1980s and he can vouch for the quality of their work.

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