Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III on Wednesday announced the filing of a lawsuit against a Texas law firm, its sole attorney, and two investigators working for the firm, in connection with the tragic Woodmore Elementary bus crash.
The civil enforcement action, filed in Hamilton County Chancery Court, alleges that the Witherspoon Law Group PLLC, based in Dallas, Tex., has engaged in the unlawful solicitation of accident victims in Tennessee.
The lawsuit names the Witherspoon Law Group, attorney Nuru Witherspoon, and investigators Alphonso McClendon and Glen Smith and alleges improper and unlawful contact with families of victims in the Chattanooga school bus crash.
It is a violation of Tennessee law for attorneys to solicit business within 30 days of a tragedy, the suit says.
Following the Nov. 21, 2016 bus crash involving Woodmore Elementary School students, the Attorney General’s Office received reports that Witherspoon, through its investigators, made contact with victim’s families as they made funeral arrangements at a local funeral home.
The lawsuit alleges Witherspoon’s investigators presented themselves as attorneys and pressured families to sign contracts and other documents. The investigators also offered to pay funeral costs in exchange for using their services. At least one family was told the funeral home would refuse to bury their child unless they signed a contract with Witherspoon.
“Following the tragedy, our office committed to shutting down any attempt to take advantage of the families in Chattanooga. This lawsuit reflects our ongoing effort,” General Slatery said.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, and restitution for victims.
After the tragedy, the Attorney General’s Office provided information warning Tennesseans to be on the lookout for predatory law firms making improper or unlawful contact with victims. Any person with information about Witherspoon, Alphonso McClendon, Glenn Smith, or any other law firm or individuals soliciting clients immediately following the Woodmore Elementary bus crash should contact the Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection and Advocate Division, (615) 741-1671.