HOUSTON – Associates at Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C, or AZA, won a case against the largest U.S. purchaser of structured settlements, securing a take-nothing judgment plus $629,000 in legal fees for their defendant client.
The 10-year-old case was whittled down to a bench trial over the attorneys’ fees structured settlement giant Peachtree Settlement Funding/Settlement Funding, also doing business as J.G. Wentworth, would have to pay AZA client RSL Funding, LLC. In pre-trial motions AZA defeated Peachtree’s efforts to get an injunction to stop RSL Funding from offering better deals to customers.
Individuals in a lawsuit who win a structured settlement – paid out over time – sometimes sell the settlement to obtain a lump sum up front. In this case, the court declared that AZA client RSL Funding had the right to make competing offers to buy structured settlements that were the subject of pending transfer agreements with Peachtree before court approval of those agreements.
“Peachtree was so anti-competitive, they were arguing that our client had no right to look in public court records, see which individuals’ settlements were being purchased and offer a better deal,” said AZA associate Kelsi Stayart White, who tried the case with fellow associate Justin Rowinsky. They bested four partners on the other side from international firm Holland & Knight.
Judge Rabeea Sultan Collier awarded AZA’s client attorneys’ fees of just under $629,000 at 5 percent interest from the date of the court judgment plus $50,000 to be awarded if appeals go forward. This is not the first time AZA has won attorneys’ fees for a defendant client, which happens far less often than awards to plaintiffs.
The original case was filed more than 10 years ago, and the plaintiffs were seeking a permanent injunction to shut down RSL Funding’s multimillion-dollar business competing for Peachtree’s customers. It was removed to federal court, appealed and sent back to state court. AZA lawyers only got involved a few months before trial.
The case is Evelyn E. Franklin et al. v. Rapid Settlements, Ltd. et al. case number 2006-23366 in the 113th Harris County District Court.
Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2018 among the best in Texas commercial law; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for seven years running including 2019; and previously by Law360 as a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 1000.