Judge denies attorney payment in BP case because of document discrepancy

Attorney Brent Coon's law firm is overseeing more than 10,000 cases filed by victims of the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Friday a federal judge ruled that one of the clients Coon says he represents is not a client. According to the judge, Coon is not entitled to any of that client's settlement money.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 claimed 11 lives. It's considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

Following the explosion and sinking of the oil rig, oil flowed uncontrollably for three months. A judge appointed Coon to oversee the consolidated lawsuit filed by those affected by the spill.

Attorney Coon says he's disappointed by the judge's decision.  He insists that the plaintiff in question, Dien Nguyen, a Vietnamese fisherman from Greta, Louisiana, is his client by extension since Nguyen signed with one of Coon's partners in these BP lawsuits.

The judge ruled that a contract with the client's signature appeared to be forged. Coon submitted the contract stating that he was entitled to 25 percent of the settlement his client received from BP. The judge found the signatures on the contract did not match the victim's. therefore Coon would not be entitled to any of the payment.

Reporter Angel San Juan spoke to Mr. Coon over the phone Friday afternoon shortly after Coon left the court hearing in New Orleans.  Coon said there's no doubt that Mr. Nguyen was a client since Nguyen had given his firm access to many personal documents including his social security number and tax documents. Coon says many of Nguyen's documents contain signatures that look differently. Coon says it's common for Vietnamese people who don't speak or write English to get others to sign for them. He believes that's what happened in this case.

Coon said there are many law firms that are now convincing oil spill victims to fire the firms that started the initial work on their legal action to attract them with cheaper rates. Coon plans to appeal the matter with the state bar.


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