A 98-page federal racketeering lawsuit was filed against a New Orleans law firm and one of its members over a tractor trailer wreck that was staged to defraud the owner of the tractor trailer and its insurer through bodily injury claims arising out of the staged accident.
The lawsuit was filed in February by Breazeale, Sachse and Wilson on behalf of C.R. England Inc., an interstate trucking company headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The lawsuit was filed against The King Firm LLC, and lawyer Jason Giles plus six people who have already pled guilty in a federal criminal investigation that produced indictments against 33 people and 15 guilty pleas.
The six individuals named in the federal racketeering suit, Damian K. Labeaud, Roderick Hickman, Anthony Robinson, Audrey Harris, Jerry Schaefer and Keishira Robinson, were involved in the wreck that occurred on Oct. 13, 2015.
Labeaud and Hickman both have admitted in federal court to playing the role of “slammers” and orchestrating wrecks by getting behind the wheel of vehicles and sideswiping tractor trailer rigs then playing the role of witness before police arrive.
C.R. England Inc. and its insurer ACE American paid out $4.725 million for the two lawsuits stemming from the staged accident on Oct. 13, 2015. C.R. England Inc. was self-insured for vehicle accidents for claims up to its self-insured limits, and ACE American provided excess insurance coverage for C.R. England. C.R. England paid $2.01 million and the remainder of the $4.725 million settlement was paid by ACE American.
The Oct. 13, 2015, alleged accident was at the intersection of Alvar Street and France Road in New Orleans at the base of the Danziger Bridge/Chef Menteur Highway where, according to previous federal indictments, numerous staged accidents have occurred.
According to the federal racketeering lawsuit, Harris, Schaeffer and Keishira Robinson were riding in a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe owned by Anthony Robinson when the driver of the Tahoe, Hickman, steered it into the tractor-trailer owned by C.R. England Inc.
Hickman jumped out of the vehicle and entered another vehicle driven by the “spotter,” Labeaud. At the same time, Anthony Robinson exited the vehicle driven by Labeaud and got behind the wheel of the wrecked vehicle and told police he had been driving it at the time of the wreck.
The federal racketeering suit alleges that prior to a lawsuit being filed against C.R. England, all the alleged occupants of the Tahoe were initially represented by The King Firm. The King Firm referred the alleged driver, Anthony Robinson, to Toni Arnona of the Arnona Rose law firm under a fee arrangement.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana indicted attorney Danny Patrick Keating Jr. on Nov. 5, 2020, for his connection with the staged accident ring. He was charged in a one-count federal indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
According to a U.S. Attorney’s indictment, Keating was a personal injury attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Louisiana. He was charged along with Damian Labeaud and others of staging automobile accidents.
The King Firm allegedly knowingly represented individuals involved in some of those staged accidents in which Keating represented other occupants of the same vehicle. In addition, The King Firm knowingly represented plaintiffs in other staged accidents which were not connected to Keating.
Lebeaud admitted in his guilty plea in the federal case to staging numerous accidents for various attorneys and acting as both the “slammer” and “spotter” in various accidents.
On the day of the Oct. 13, 2015, accident, Lebeaud spoke to Giles of The King Firm approximately three times, and told Giles that he had some “fish” for the attorney. The phone records also indicate that Giles and Lebeaud spoke both before and after the accident.
After the accident, Lebeaud met Harris, Schaefer, Anthony Robinson and Keishira Robinson at a gas station and instructed them to follow him to The King Firm in order to discuss Giles’s representation of them in connection with the staged accident.
They entered the law firm through the rear stair entrance and, once inside, met with Giles. In addition to discussing Giles’s representation of them in connection with the accident and completing related paperwork, Giles discussed setting up immediate medical treatment for Harris, Schaefer, Anthony Robinson and Keishira Robinson.
Giles, according to the federal racketeering lawsuit, paid Lebeaud in cash and check for staging the accident. The day after the accident, Giles paid Lebeaud $1,500 from the law firm’s account. Additionally, Giles made several cash withdrawals from his personal law firm account, Giles Law LLC, on the day of the accident and later the same week.
On Sept. 26, 2016, James “Jimmy” Courtenay of The King Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of Harris, Schaefer, and Keishira Robinson in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans. On Oct. 3, 2016, Arnona of the Arnona Rose law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of Anthony Robinson.
The racketeering lawsuit alleges that before the lawsuits for the Oct. 13, 2015, accident were filed and throughout the time the lawsuits were pending, Giles and Courtenay referred the alleged occupants of the Tahoe to medical providers for treatment due to the staged accident.
Anthony Robinson, Harris and Schaffer underwent extensive medical treatment, including chiropractic treatment, injections and surgery. Keishira Robinson agreed to chiropractic treatment and an injection, but refused to undergo surgery. The lawsuit alleges that all four individuals were either directly told or understood that agreeing to more medical treatment would increase the value of their lawsuits.
Anthony Robinson’s alleged medical specials were $285,888.17 with $1,400,804 in alleged future medical specials. His medical charges for the fusion surgery and multiple injections totaling over $120,000 were billed to and guaranteed by The King Firm even though he was represented by the Arnona Rose law firm.
Harris’s alleged medical specials were $504,336.25 with $7,741,150 in alleged future medical specials, and her medical charges for the cervical and lumbar surgeries of $146,200 were submitted to Elite Medical Enterprises, a medical finance company.
Schaffer’s alleged medical specials were $145,596.68 with alleged future medical specials of $45,007, and his $117,250 in medical charges for lumbar surgery were submitted to DMA, a medical finance company. DMA allegedly paid $46,900 for the lumbar surgery.
Keishira Robinson’s alleged medical specials were $24,891.45.
Also, while the lawsuits were pending, the four individuals were given loans or advances on their settlement by Giles and Courtenay of The King Firm, and Arnona of the Arnona Rose law firm. Anthony Robinson received checks totaling $3,000 from The King Firm and approximately $32,700 in loans and advances on his settlement from the Arnona Rose law firm. Harris, Schaffer and Keishira Robinson received approximately $14,600, $11,650 and $2,620, respectively from The King Firm.
On Aug. 21, 2017, Courtenay of The King Firm demanded a $4,000,000 settlement for Harris, $1,000,000 settlement for Schaffer, and $175,000 settlement for Keishira Robinson. Arnona of the Arnona Rose law firm demanded a $4,800,000 settlement for Anthony Robinson.
The lawsuit alleges that on Sept. 28, 2017, Harris, Schaefer, Anthony Robinson and Keishira Robinson each provided false testimony and omitted key material facts in depositions taken in conjunction with the two lawsuits.
On Feb. 28, 2018, Courtenay of The King Firm took a deposition of C.R. England’s driver who was a defendant in the lawsuit for the Oct. 13, 2015, crash.
The deposition was taken in Michigan were the truck driver was from. In the deposition, the driver testified that while he was attempting to make a left turn traveling approximately three miles per hour, he noticed the Tahoe coming up behind him very fast. He believed that the Tahoe was going to hit him, so he completely stopped his tractor trailer. However, the Tahoe missed the trailer and came to a complete stop next to the trailer. Seconds later, the driver of the Tahoe “punched the gas” and ran the Tahoe along the side of the tractor trailer and “gently” scraped the Tahoe against the tractor trailer.
The truck driver testified that the purported occupants of the Tahoe left the scene by ambulance, that he was given a citation by the investigating officer, that he missed his delivery in New Orleans because of the accident, and that he had to sleep in his truck overnight to complete the delivery the next day before returning to Michigan.
The day after the accident, while the truck driver was still in New Orleans, he was terminated by C.R. England as a result of this accident in which he received a citation and the four occupants of the vehicle allegedly sustained serious injury.
During the deposition, Courtenay attempted to get the driver to agree that he merged into the Tahoe’s lane, did not see the vehicle, and side swiped the Tahoe. The driver testified that he totally disagreed with Courtenay’s version of the accident.
The trial for all four occupants of the Tahoe was set to begin June 24, 2019.
On June 3, 2019, the counsel representing C.R. England in the Oct. 13 accident lawsuits filed a Motion to Continue after receiving information that the facts of this accident aligned with other accidents which were rumored to be part of a fraudulent scheme to stage accidents with tractor trailers and were being investigated by the federal government.
On June 3 and 4, 2019, Courtenay of The King Firm initiated an email exchange with the counsel representing C.R. England in the Oct. 13, 2015, accident, berating counsel for the alleged lack of evidence of fraud, and that this “is becoming the ‘go to’ defense in all 18-wheeler cases out here.” Courtenay further claimed that The King Firm had been looking into and trying to find out what was happening regarding the allegations of staged accidents and trying to find out if any of the cases the law firm has were being investigated, but the firm never was told that its cases were being investigated.
Courtenay concluded his email as follows: “So ultimately, I’m trying to figure out what is happening here. I’m also curious as to how people find out about what is and is not being investigated when we have done everything in our power to learn that for ourselves, and we are always told none of our cases are under investigation. I’m curious what number I can start calling to avoid the time, energy, and money that gets tied up in these things. Let me know.” Courtenay refused to agree to a short continuance of the trial in order to investigate the allegations.
On June 5, 2019, Giles of The King Firm filed a Memorandum in Opposition to C.R. England’s Motion to Continue Trial. In the memorandum, Giles argued that there is “no evidence of staging or fraud,” and that the accident at issue was not under investigation, and that “Defendants have no good faith basis for a continuance.”
Giles also alleged that C.R. England’s allegations were “both incredulous and insulting to undersigned counsel and this tribunal,” were “disingenuous” and “not in good faith.” Giles argued that “Rumor. Innuendo. That is the basis of this continuance, which seeks not only additional time to investigate the rumors, but a completely new set of deadlines. This continuance is bad faith tactics by C.R. England merely to reopen full discovery (discovery has been happening and continues to happen), likely hire new experts, and get another bite at the apple.”
Giles concluded his memorandum with “one last item that is being overlooked here is that The King Firm has spent thousands of dollars on trial exhibits and graphics for use at trial and has paid doctors to attend trial.” His argument to the court is that C.R. England is in bad faith, that The King Firm has no involvement in any rumored fraud ring to stage accidents, and that any “innuendo” that this accident is staged is simply a bad faith tactic to delay trial and cost The King Firm thousands of dollars.
The Motion to Continue was before Judge D. Nicole Sheppard of the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans on June 12, 2019, and the motion was denied.
The cases went to mediation on June 13, 2019, and around that time Giles and Courtenay told Harris and Schaffer to settle their cases because the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating staged accidents, and that C.R. England suspected that their case was fraudulent. Shortly after the mediation started, the parties agreed to a settlement on all four claimants, $1,500,000 for Anthony Robinson, $2,100,000 for Harris, $1,000,000 for Schaffer, and $125,000 for Keishira Robinson.
Settlement checks were sent by C.R. England and ACE American to C.R. England’s counsel for the accident lawsuit in New Orleans and picked up by Courtenay. There were five checks picked up by Courtenay, a C.R. England check for $125,000 made payable to Keishira Robinson and The King Firm; a C.R. England check for $898,422.87 made payable to Anthony Robinson and Arnona Rose law firm; an ACE American check for $601,577.13 made payable to Anthony Robinson and Arnona Rose law firm; an ACE American check for $2,100,000 made payable to Harris and The King Firm, and a C.R. England check for $1,000,000 made payable to Schaffer and The King Firm.
The checks were deposited by the law firms, and settlement checks were issued by the law firms to the four individuals in the following amounts: $40,080.84 for Keishira Robinson, $675,000 for Harris, $430,463.99 for Schaffer, and $534,983.33 for Anthony Robinson.
According to the federal racketeering lawsuit, the current indictments and guilty pleas which have been issued for wrecks between 2015 and 2018, involve at least 150 admitted to and known staged accidents with tractor trailers with nearly identical facts, each involving multiple occupants/claimants inside the vehicle.
These accidents have been connected to each other by the tractor trailer defendants in numerous cases and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Prosecutor for the Eastern District of Louisiana which resulted in the indictments and guilty pleas.
Giles of The King Firm, according to the racketeering lawsuit, filed suit in a similar accident which also occurred on Alvar Street on Aug. 31, 2015, just six weeks prior to the accident at issue on Alvar Street on Oct. 13, 2015. In addition, Giles also filed a lawsuit in a similar accident that involved Labeaud as a plaintiff on Aug. 7, 2015, and a suit in a similar accident that occurred on Sept. 1, 2016, in the general area that involved Hickman as a plaintiff.
Labeaud was indicted and subsequently pled guilty to staging accidents on June 5 and June 12, 2017. Both of the accidents were similar to the accident in the federal racketeering lawsuit.
Hickman was indicted and subsequently pled guilty to staging accidents on March 27, 2017, and two accidents on May 17, 2017, all of which were similar to the Oct. 13, 2015, accident.
Based on the commonalities in the cases, according to the federal racketeering lawsuit, there is an established pattern of reported crashes in and around the New Orleans area within the past several years, and the crashes are staged and intentionally committed by passenger vehicle drivers and the other occupants of the vehicles.
The plaintiff, C.R. England, is requesting triple damages from the defendants.