Texas Law Firm Slaps Ex-Client With Defamation Suit Over Negative Online Review
“It’s clear that he’s meaning to harass,” said defense lawyer Jason Castaneda, a Houston solo practitioner, about McAllen attorney Chris Sanchez.
Two paramedics in the Rio Grande Valley are denying making defamatory online reviews about a McAllen law firm because they say their statements were true.
The defendants, Trevor Nikos Kocaoglan and Pablo Trejo, also argued the court should dismiss the Law Office of Chris Sanchez’s suit. They say this will ensure their rights under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which is meant to protect free speech by quickly dismissing “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”
“It’s clear that he’s meaning to harass,” Houston solo practitioner and defense lawyer Jason Castaneda said about McAllen attorney Chris Sanchez. “I think it’s definitely going to get dismissed. The question is whether the court is going to sanction his conduct.”
The dispute arose after defendant Kocaoglan’s vehicle caught fire, and he hired Sanchez for representation. The attorney-client relationship soured after Sanchez withdrew as Kocaoglan’s attorney. Trejo is Kocaoglan’s boss at an EMS company.
Sanchez’s firm alleged in an Aug. 19 petition in Law Office of Chris Sanchez v. Kocaoglan that Trejo and Kocaoglan wrote defamatory comments in Google reviews and on Facebook about the firm. It is suing Kocaoglan and Trejo for defamation and libel, and seeking damages, lost profits, attorney fees, costs and interest.
“Kocaoglan is simply unhappy that the law firm withdrew from representing him,” the petition said, alleging the former client didn’t adequately insure his vehicle and “wanted to blame the law firm as his scapegoat.”
According to the petition, Kocaoglan sent 50 “phishing” emails to the firm, yelled and screamed at Sanchez over the phone, and came to the law office to get his client file—all while making “disparaging remarks and saying outlandish things” to the legal assistant there. The firm filed a claim of harassment against the ex-client, the petition said.
The defendants deny all of those allegations. They argued in a Sept. 16 answer that the firm’s defamation claims are barred because their statements were true. They also say they were expressing an opinion, among other defamation defenses.
Kocaoglan alleged in a pro se answer that it was Sanchez who yelled and screamed at him on the phone—not the other way around—and harassed him at work by calling repeatedly and yelling at Trejo, his boss, on the phone. There was no false information in his Google review, Kocaoglan alleged, claiming Sanchez is the one “making up stories” in his lawsuit.
The answer alleges Sanchez should be responsible for sabotaging Kocaoglan’s case over the loss of his vehicle, and allegedly defaming his character to friends, employees and clients.
Sanchez didn’t return an email or two phone calls seeking comment.