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A Texas Judicial Candidate Nominee, Now Judge, is Charged with Evading Service of Process in Legal Malpractice Suit

Texas Malpractice lawyer Colb says his process server tried to serve Garza multiple times, but she failed to call the process server back to accept service.

UPDATE

Nicole Garza (Democratic Party) is a judge-elect of the Texas 37th District Court. Garza assumed office on January 1, 2021.

LIT COMMENTARY

The question that popped out when preparing this article for LIT was, how is it that so many lawyers are running around with assumed names? Nicole Garza, who is running for Judge, has this as her name on her Texas Bar profile: MS. NICOLE DENISE ‘NICOLE HENNING GARZA LODDE. So what’s on her SSN or Driving License and how was she named in the service of process?

Before we get to hypothetically answer that question, we have to look at her personal injury law firm which is THE HENNING LAW FIRM and competing is NICOLE GARZA FOR JUDGE (dot com). Well y’all know, the surname is always the last name, right? Well, it’s LODDE

Hang on, there’s more…

Attorney-defendant Leticia Gonzalez has this as her name on her Texas Bar profile: MS. LETICIA ARROYO. Her website; GONZALEZ LAWYER (dot com).

There’s so many ethics requirements for lawyers in Texas and the name of firm, letterhead is  one of them. Maybe they’ll shed light on the issue, or maybe not.

Watch out who you vote for and who you hire as your next Texas lawyer. A good idea would be to join our free daily newsletter at the end of this article.

San Antonio District Judge Candidate Denies Malpractice Allegations

Nicole Garza, a Democrat running for the 37th District Court in San Antonio, denies the allegations in a legal-malpractice lawsuit that claimed she and two other lawyers missed a deadline to sue a key defendant in their client’s case.

July 14, 2020

A San Antonio attorney who’s running for district judge has denied all of the allegations in a legal malpractice lawsuit that claimed she and other lawyers missed a deadline that made their client lose millions in damages.

Nicole Henning, who also goes by Nicole Garza, is a candidate for Bexar County’s 37th District Court. In an answer filed Monday, she denied the plaintiffs’ allegations and demanded that they show proof that she actually had a legal contract with them or shared fees with two other defendant-lawyers, Leticia Gonzalez and Gilbert “James” Martinez.

In the March primary, Garza won 71% of the vote and ousted incumbent Judge Michael Mery to become the Democratic candidate for the court. In November, Garza will compete for the bench against Republican candidate Joseph A. Appelt.

Garza told Texas Lawyer that she’s had a close, friendly relationship with plaintiff Michael Pasko. She said Pasko sent her a text to say that he voted for her in the March primary.

“If he voted for me in the primary, then whatever is happening right now should be maybe put into the perspective that sometimes people get sued for different reasons,” she said.

Garza said she believes it was not Pasko, but his attorney, who decided to name her in the lawsuit.

But plaintiffs lawyer Carl Kolb said that Garza was the lead attorney for the Paskos.

“I can’t imagine why she wouldn’t be the right party, and Mr. Pasko and I made that decision. That’s the way it is,” Kolb said.

He said that his process server tried to serve the lawsuit on Garza multiple times, but she failed to call the process server back to accept service.

“That’s just troubling for a judicial candidate,” he said. “What will the judge do when she is faced with somebody avoiding service? Is that OK?”

In the case, Pasko v. Gonzalez, plaintiffs Michael Pasko and his wife had an underlying personal injury case over Pasko’s injury at a oil well site in DeWitt County, said the March 26 original petition. An employee of Schlumberger told Pasko to clean up a spill of fracking liquid but didn’t give him protective gear. The chemicals in the fracking liquid caused severe chemical burns on his skin, and four months later, he was diagnosed with cancer.

Pasko alleged that the lawyers filed his lawsuit May 5, 2015, which was just one day before the two-year statute of limitations was set to expire. The case did not name Schlumberger as a defendant. In mid-August of that year, the lawyers amended the petition to add Schlumberger.

Although Pasko’s lawyers tried raising arguments about why the court should let Pasko sue Schlumberger outside of the statute of limitations, Schlumberger won summary judgment dismissing it from the case because the claims were untimely. The Texas Supreme Court eventually ruled for Schlumberger, deciding that Pasko should take nothing.

“Michael and Peggy are prohibited from any recovery against Schlumberger, who was primarily responsible for all of the injuries and damages,” said the petition. “Gonzalez, Martinez and Henning all had more than ample time to file suit, conduct discovery and identify any unknown or potential parties over a hear and a half before expiration of the statute of limitations. They failed to do so.”

The lawyers are being sued for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and forfeiture, and exemplary damages.

Martinez, one of the lawyer-defendants in the case, denied all of the Pasko’s allegations in an April 29 answer. He also argued that the court must determine how much of the fault or responsibility should be attributed to each party. Martinez claimed that if the plaintiffs contributed to their own damages, then Martinez should be able to use that as a defense.

“Acts of third parties, beyond defendant’s control, constitute an intervening and superseding cause of any damages,” said Martinez’s answer.

Martinez’s lawyer, Robert Valdez of Valdez & Trevino in San Antonio, said, “The case is in its infancy, and we’ve got a general denial on file. We’ll have to see how the litigation develops.”

Gonzalez, the final lawyer-defendant who has not yet filed an answer, didn’t immediately respond to a call or email seeking comment.

A Texas Judicial Candidate Nominee, Now Judge, is Charged with Evading Service of Process in Legal Malpractice Suit
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