Federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith has set a hearing Feb. 19 on the question of whether he should punish lawyers involved in a class action case long pending in his court that was suddenly dropped and then immediately settled in a state court in Polk County.
Were attorneys forum shopping?
Arkansas Business reports the judge will hear from plaintiffs’ lawyers including John Goodson and W. H. Taylor and defense lawyers\ Lynn Pruitt. (The item originally identified Steve Engstrom incorrectly as a defense lawyer he represents plaintiffs). The class action by a Mena family against USAA insurance was pending about 18 months before Holmes before it was suddenly dismissed and settled. Holmes apparently learned of the maneuver through an article in Arkansas Business and said it was settled under terms he wouldn’t have approved. At least one lawyer critic of the settlement said it will produce a big fee for plaintiffs’ but reduce damage to the insurance company because the claims process will be cumbersome and many in the class won’t seek the money.
The case has drawn attention particularly because Goodson is a major political player. His wife Courtney Goodson is running for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court against Dan Kemp. John Goodson has been subject to past scathing commentary for his ability to win major fees after steering class action cases to his home territory of Texarkana.