The founding member and leader of the Kumbia Kings prevailed on appeal in a dispute with an attorney who claimed he conspired to cut the lawyer out of his alleged share of a settlement.
Houston-based firm Law Offices of David Showalter sued A.B. Quintanilla III, brother of the deceased Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla. It alleged A.B. Quintanilla and his father allegedly conspired to interfere in the law firm’s fee agreement in connection with a dispute over band profits owed to three other band members.
In 2021, a Nueces County district court denied the Quintanillas’ motion to dismiss the law firm’s suit. They appealed to the Thirteenth District Court of Appeals.
In the opinion written by Justice Nora Longoria, the appeals court found the Quintanillas had a valid Texas Citizens Participation Act defense, because their settlement communications were in the court record, and the Showalter law firm had not provided prima facie evidence of the alleged wrongdoing.
‘A Covert Settlement?’
The underlying case had to do with a falling out between Quintanilla and band members Andrew Maes, Alex Ramirez and Rolando Ramirez. The Latin pop band formed in the late 1990s and its musician membership experienced turnover over the years. It is currently known as Kumbia Kings All Starz.
In 2007, Maes and the Ramirez brothers sued for breach of contract and other causes of action related to their entitlement to profits. A 2012 bench trial, wherein Showalter represented the plaintiffs against Quintanilla, resulted in awards of $393,266 to each of the Ramirez brothers.
Showalter continued to represent the Ramirezes in post-judgment proceedings and collection efforts, and successfully got a bankruptcy court in 2013 to declare the final judgment debt as non-dischargeable. However, years passed and the Ramirez brothers’ judgment was not paid.
In 2018, the brothers hired attorneys Bianca Medina and Kim Frost, who in turn applied for a writ of garnishment directed at Quintanilla’s father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., on the basis of a contractual relationship involving debts that existed between him and his son. The writ was issued and this set in motion talks that resulted in a $750,000 settlement on June 26, 2019.
Showalter claimed he learned of the settlement after the fact, and filed suit against the Ramirez brothers and A.B. Quintanilla III. Showalter claimed that by contract he was entitled to 45% ownership of the settlement proceeds, and that Quintanilla interfered in the fee agreement “by offering a covert settlement … outside of court in which Showalter received no notification.”
Quintanilla is represented by Thomas K. Richards of Singh, Singh & Trauben in Beverly Hills, California, and Andrew M. Greenwell of Harris & Greenwell in Corpus Christi. They told the appeals court the receivership Showalter set up was never vested with power over the Quintanilla defendants’ debts until the new attorneys took action.
“Showalter remained counsel of record for the Ramirez brothers during the entire time period in which (the Quintanilla defendants’ attorney) … engaged in settlement discussions with Medina and Frost,” Richards and Greenwell state in their brief.
In January 2020, about six months after the settlement agreement was signed, the Ramirezes attorney Medina filed an interpleader action to withhold $65,000 from the settlement, the amount that was awarded to Showalter by the court for his services in the 2012 bench trial.
Showalter filed suit June 3, 2021. In finding for Showalter, the trial court stated it found his reference to the Texas Supreme Court case Honeycutt v. Billingsley (1999) persuasive. In Honeycutt, the court found a lawyer may recover when a case in which he had a contingent fee interest is settled behind his back by parties who knew of his interest.
The appeals court disagreed.
“First, there is no indication that Showalter and the Ramirez brothers agreed, as part of their fee arrangement, that neither party was to make a settlement without the other’s consent. Second, and more importantly, the question at issue in Honeycutt was whether the attorney … could recover against his former client,” the opinion states.
“It does not establish that the attorney may recover his fees from the defendant in the lawsuit when that defendant settles its claims with the attorney’s former client, regardless of whether the defendant knew of the contingency fee arrangement,” the opinion states.
According to the district court record, Showalter’s claim against the Ramirez brothers is still pending.
The Showalter firm was represented by Simon B. Purnell of the Griffin Purnell firm in Corpus Christi. He did not respond to a request for comment by the publishing deadline.
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