Attorneys decline to apologize, reimburse Oklahoma electrician wrongly named in $60M lawsuit

Spencer Struck is no longer named in a $60 million lawsuit that mistakenly targeted his company Red Dirt Electric, but he is wondering why the law firm responsible for the bad filing isn’t reimbursing his legal costs or making a public apology.

Just as shocking as the mistake was the response by representatives of the legal team consisting of Phillips Murrah and Goolsby Proctor when Struck asked for a public apology or retraction.

“I was given the explanation that the wrong people get sued every day and this is what you set yourself up for when you open a business,” Struck told The Oklahoman.

Phillips Murrah declined to respond to questions from The Oklahoman other than to say the firm did not have direct communications with Struck. The firm would not comment about a request to publicly apologize or reimburse his legal costs. Goolsby Proctor did not return calls seeking comment.

Lawsuit filed after five-alarm fire at The Canton at Classen Curve

The lawsuit on behalf of developers of The Canton at Classen Curve, destroyed by a five-alarm fire in 2022, was filed last month against OG&E along with Red Dirt Electric, even though the firm didn’t even exist until months after the blaze.

“The fire happened in February 2022,” Struck said. “My formation documents were not granted to me from the secretary of state until September 2022, and I didn’t start operating until January 2023.”

More: OG&E facing second lawsuit alleging contractor to blame for fires at apartment complexes

The five-alarm blaze at the Canton Apartments at Classen Curve was the largest commercial fire in Oklahoma City history.
The five-alarm blaze at the Canton Apartments at Classen Curve was the largest commercial fire in Oklahoma City history.

Struck was bewildered by the filing. Struck, based in Kingfisher, wasn’t even familiar with the Feb. 8, 2022, fire prior to being named in the lawsuit.

“The first time I found out about it was when (the lawsuit) was in the news,” Struck said. “That was on a Wednesday or Thursday. I was served papers that following Friday or Saturday.”

The Canton at Classen Curve was less than a month away from occupancy when flames were spotted coming from the roof of the 326-unit complex at 6161 N Western Ave. The fire was the largest commercial blaze in city history.

The lawsuit alleged the contractor on the job incorrectly connected the complex to OG&E transformers — but the contractor on the job was Red Dirt Construction, not Red Dirt Electric.

A fire marshal’s investigative report, cited by the attorneys, named the correct contractor, Red Dirt Construction.

The future home of Phillips Murrah is under construction at the southeast corner of NW 10 and Walker Avenue.
The future home of Phillips Murrah is under construction at the southeast corner of NW 10 and Walker Avenue.

Incorrectly sued business seeking reimbursement

Phillips Murrah is one of Oklahoma City's largest law firms. The firm reported employing 110 people when plans were announced last year that it was to anchor a new five-story mixed-use building now being built in Midtown. Goolsby Proctor is co-counsel.

"On a $60 million lawsuit you would think they would have every 't' crossed and every 'i' dotted,” Struck said. “My struggle was I could not get them to do a retraction publicly or an apology. We got one meeting privately and I was told that was all there would be.”

Struck said he has gotten a “run-around” trying to get reimbursed for legal costs incurred getting the filing corrected. He declined to say how much was spent. He said he is eager to get back to business, unburdened by being falsely accused in a lawsuit that would have wiped out his small company.

“I have a lot of good local customers in Kingfisher who are loyal to me,” Struck said. “The concern is new customers. I wanted the record set straight publicly because you don’t know what new customers might have used you but then saw this and call someone else.”

Lawrence K. Hellman, professor of law emeritus at Oklahoma City University, wrote a monthly column for 20 years and recalls one headlined “Unethical to be a jerk.”

“This is more personal ethics than legal,” Hellman said, responding to the refusal to publicly apologize and the response to the electrician. “It would be a decent thing (apologize) for them to do. But I don’t know of a provision of legal ethics that would require them to do that.”

In his column, Hellman advised fellow attorneys that the punishment for being a jerk is the damage to one’s reputation. “You want to treat other people as you want to be treated.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Phillips Murrah names wrong defendant in $60M Canton fire lawsuit