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Ambulance chasers? Lawyers indicted in Flight 1016 case

Published: Friday, April 18 1997 12:00 a.m. MDT

One of the nation's richest personal injury lawyers has been indicted on ambulance-chasing charges accusing him of illegally soliciting clients after the 1994 crash of a USAir plane.

John O'Quinn and three other lawyers from Houston were indicted Thursday on various charges stemming from their conduct after the July 1994 crash that killed 37 people.Flight 1016 went down in a thunderstorm near Charlotte, N.C. Most of the victims were from South Carolina. Twenty people on the plane survived.

O'Quinn is accused of improperly soliciting the business of four victims' families following the USAir crash, South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon said. South Carolina bars lawyers from personally soliciting accident victims.

The lawyers were charged with conspiracy in hiring "accident runners" to recruit clients from the crash. O'Quinn also is charged with splitting fees or agreeing to split fees with non-lawyers and soliciting legal business in South Carolina without having been admitted or sworn to practice law in the state.

Similar civil allegations were filed against O'Quinn and the others in December by the State Bar of Texas. O'Quinn denied any wrongdoing at that time.

Lawyers Carl Shaw and Charles Benton Musselwhite Sr. were indicted on charges of conspiracy, solicitation, splitting fees with non-lawyers and practicing law without being admitted or sworn. Lawyer Charles Benton Musselwhite Jr. was indicted on a solicitation charge.

The Texas Bar alleged that O'Quinn paid about $100,000 to the elder Musslewhite to help fund the effort to line up clients. Musslewhite allegedly signed up non-attorney "runners" to contact potential clients.

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