Phillip Wade DeVilbiss

Phillip Wade DeVilbiss

Partner
Partner
Location:
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Phone:
337-433-9436
Fax:
337-436-5205
Email:

Phillip joined the firm upon his graduation from law school in May of 1999. Since joining the firm Phillip has concentrated on litigation and has handled cases involving in a variety of areas including maritime personal injury, commercial litigation, premises liability, and oil and gas law.

At LSU Law School, Phillip received class high grades in Criminal Law, Constitutional Law II, and History of European Law. Phillip also participated in the LSU Law School summer study program in France, where he studied under U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Senior Judge Henry Politz and former U. S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh.

Representative Experience

In 2019, Phillip and Scott Scofield successfully defended Galaxy NA, LLC, and one of its co-owners, Erik Morgan, in a multi-party action brought by plaintiffs, Pyramid Instrumentation & Electric Corporation and PTW Energy Services, Inc. In addition to various tort and breach of fiduciary duty claims, the plaintiffs also brought actions under the federal and state versions of the Defend Trade Secrets Act. In an early motion, Phillip and Scott secured the favorable dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Pyramid Instrumentation, et. al v. Hebert, et. al, 2018 WL 1789325 (W.D. La. 2018). After Scott and Phillip moved for leave to file a countersuit alleging that that the plaintiffs had asserted LUTPA claims in bad faith, the plaintiffs - represented by the Houston office of an international law firm - voluntarily dismissed their claims which put an end to the case. 

Between 2014 and 2017, Phillip, along with Scott Scofield, successfully represented Lake Charles CPA Finley Hilliard against criminal contempt charges seeking an award of attorney's fees and costs that potentially exceeded $1 million. See, In re Eleanor Pierce (Marshall) Stevens Living Trust, 229 So. 3d 36 (La. App. 3 Cir. 2017), writ denied, 233 So. 3d 613 (La. 2018). As a former co-trustee, Mr. Hilliard had been ordered to return to the successor trustee Preston Marshall all trust property in his possession, including documents. With Phillip's assistance, Mr. Hilliard complied by delivering over 70,000 pages of documents including legal files for litigation in which the trust was involved. Preston Marshall, however, moved to hold Mr. Hilliard in contempt and to recover attorney fees because Mr. Hilliard could not deliver documents that did not belong to the trust, including documents that third parties refused to give to Mr. Hilliard. After 14 days of trial on the motion for contempt, Mr. Hilliard learned that one of Preston's attorneys had been having secret, ex parte meetings and phone calls with the presiding judge, which forced Mr. Hilliard to file a motion to recuse. This motion was referred to another judge who, without allowing discovery, denied the motion to recuse after concluding that Preston's counsel had misrepresented the nature of his ex parte contacts with the trial judge. Once the motion to recuse was denied by the recusal judge, the trial judge found Mr. Hilliard in contempt and entered a judgment against him for attorney fees that could easily have exceeded $1 million.

In the published opinion, however, the appellate court adopted the de novo standard of review urged by Phillip's client, found that the record did not support a finding of criminal (or even civil) contempt, and reversed the contempt judgment - and the award for attorney fees and costs. The appellate court did affirm the recusal judge's denial of the motion to recuse, relying on Louisiana's recusal standard which requires a showing that the judge is subjectively biased.

In 2017, Phillip assisted Scott Scofield in moving to dismiss an untimely bankruptcy appeal by an attorney who was a putative creditor and former special counsel for the debtor, and in moving for sanctions based upon a frivolous appeal. The district court granted both motions and awarded over $21,000 in sanctions against the attorney and his firm. Kenneth Michael Wright, LLC v. Kite Bros., LLC, 2017 WL 1319815 (W.D. La. 2017). The Fifth Circuit affirmed and ordered additional, but nominal sanctions. Kenneth Michael Wright, LLC v. Kite Bros., LLC, 710 Fed. Appx. 628 (5th Cir. 2018). 

In 2017, Phillip helped Scott Scofield in the trial of their client, Kite Bros., LLC's, objections to two proofs of claim for attorney fees claimed by special counsel for the bankruptcy estate. After a two day trial on the motions - in which the attorney/special counsel was called to testify and Phillip conducted a portion of the cross-examination - Phillip's client was successful in having both the claim for pre-petition legal services in the amount of $374,817.68 and the claim for post-petition legal services in the amount of $74,363.00, denied. See In re Kite, 2017 WL 4404283 (Bkrtcy. W.D. La. 2017). This allowed Kite Bros., LLC, the largest unsecured creditor of the bankruptcy estate, to recover almost $300,000.

Together with Richard Gerard, successfully secured the complete dismissal on summary judgment of claims against their client seeking over $51M in damages for alleged trade secret violations, breach of contract, and unfair trade practices. This dismissal was affirmed on appeal by the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. Mayne & Mertz, Inc. v. Excalibur Land Company, 2009 WL 3678253 (W.D. La. 2009), affirmed on appeal, 401 Fed.Appx. 871 (5th Cir. 2010).

Secured summary judgment which was affirmed on appeal dismissing trespass action claiming that hazardous material had been placed on property without landowner's consent. Landry v. Laney Directional Drilling, 09-615 (M.D. La. 2010).

Together with Scott Scofield, represented Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor's Bureau against its insurer for bad faith adjustment practices, which resulted in a settlement recovering all of their client's covered claims, and additional amounts for penalties, damages, attorneys fees, and jury costs.

Secured summary judgment dismissing trespass action seeking treble damages against a geophysical company. Braneff v. Tidelands Geophysical Co., 2008 WL 4960231 (W.D. La. 2008).

Along with Scott Scofield, successfully secured summary judgment dismissing claims against employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, defamation, hostile work environment and invasion of privacy. Groff v. Southwest Beverage Co., Inc., 2008-625 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/5/08), 997 So.2d 782.

Successful representation of physicians in action for breach of option contract, fraud and damages against hospital resulting in pre-trial settlement in excess of one half million dollars.

Along with Pat Gallaugher and co-counsel, secured multi-million dollar settlement for landowners against various oil well operators for negligent design and drilling of oil well.

Successful representation of operators and oil field service companies in obtaining and preserving liens under the Louisiana Oil Well Lien Act

Secured damage award – including penalties and attorney's fees – against an insurer for arbitrary and capricious failure to pay a claim. Morgan v. Allstate, 03-0014, 14th JDC, Louisiana

Along with Scott Scofield, obtained the dismissal of a civil rights claims and recovered clients' attorney fees at both the district and appellate court levels. Robins v. Jarreau, 90 Fed. App. 749, 2004 WL 330861 (5th Cir. 2004); and Robins v. Jarreau, 2005 WL 1050754, (5th Cir. 2005)

Successful representation at trial and through settlement negotiation of clients in redhibition claims

Successfully secured reduction of penalty for alleged regulatory violations assessed by the U.S. Coast Guard

Successful representation through litigation and settlement negotiations of several clients in maritime personal injury claims involving Jones Act negligence, unseaworthiness and LHWCA negligence claims

Instrumental in successful litigation of claims involving clients' entitlement to funds in an account governed by the Federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Halphen v. Crosby, 6:02-CV-0880, Western District of Louisiana

Areas of Practice

  • Commercial Litigation
  • Personal Injury Defense
  • Maritime
  • Mineral Law

Bar Admissions

  • Louisiana, 1999

Education

  • Louisiana State University Law Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    • J.D. - 1999
  • Northwestern State University
    • B.A. - 1995
    • Major: Sociology, Natchitoches

Honors and Awards

  • Recipient of Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles Outstanding Director Award
  • Recipient of Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles Human and Spiritual Values Award, 2003 - 2004
  • Graduate – Chamber Southwest Leadership Program, 2004 - 2005

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Louisiana Bar Association
  • Southwest Louisiana Bar Association
  • SWLBA Young Lawyer's Section
  • Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel
  • Louisiana State Law Institute
  • Louisiana State Law Institute, Young Lawyer's Representative, 2009 - 2010
  • Southwest Louisiana Bar Association, Vice President
  • Southwest Louisiana Bar Foundation, Board Member
  • Southwest Louisiana Bar Association, Past Treasurer
  • Southwest Louisiana Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, Past President
  • Southwest Louisiana Bar Association's Executive Counsel
  • Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles, Past President
  • Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles, Past Director
  • American Cancer Society of Southwest Louisiana, Past Member Leadership Council
  • Southwest Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel, Past President/Secretary
  • Louisiana Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Disaster Relief Committee, Past Member
  • St. John's Lutheran Church, Member
  • Business Law at McNeese State University, Past Visiting Lecturer

Pro Bono Activities

  • Volunteer for Local Charities