Lafayette School Board agrees to dismiss lawsuit

Advocate staff file photo by BRYAN TUCK --  Workers install new walls in a classroom at N.P. Moss Middle School in Lafayette in 2008 after mold was discovered. The School Board agreed Wednesday to drop its legal malpractice suit against the attorney who represented it in a suit against the firm that designed the school. Show caption
Advocate staff file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Workers install new walls in a classroom at N.P. Moss Middle School in Lafayette in 2008 after mold was discovered. The School Board agreed Wednesday to drop its legal malpractice suit against the attorney who represented it in a suit against the firm that designed the school.

The School Board unanimously agreed Wednesday to dismiss its legal malpractice suit against Paul McMahon, who represented the board in its suit against two design firms for their alleged faulty designs at two of its schools.

The board met in executive session during a special meeting to discuss the legal malpractice lawsuit with its attorney, Dawn Morris. Following the meeting, Morris deferred comment about her reasonings for recommending that the board drop its case until she could file the dismissal request in court.

The board filed the lawsuit against McMahon and his insurer in March 2010, alleging negligence in his handling of two lawsuits: one against Corne-Lemaire Group for its work on N.P. Moss Middle School and another against Poche-Prouet Associates for its work on Charles M. Burke Elementary.

Both schools needed extensive repairs to address mold issues. N.P. Moss Middle School is now the site of David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy.

In May 2010, McMahon filed a petition for voluntary permanent resignation in lieu of discipline he was facing with the Louisiana Supreme Court. The court accepted his request, according to court records. At the time, an Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigation involved 10 complaints from clients against McMahon.

The board’s case against Corne-Lemaire is still active. Morris took over the case in 2010 and challenged a district court ruling upheld in appellate court that found the board’s claims against the firm were “untimely” based on a state law that set a five-year window on claims specific to architectural firms. Morris argued that since the building was substantially complete in 2009, the law in effect that year set a 10-year window for claims. In September 2010, the Louisiana Supreme Court sent the issue back to district court and the case is still pending.

Morris said she is no longer representing the board in its suit against Corne-Lemaire.