IssuesState HouseJury Orders Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. to Pay $1.2 Million in Damages for Legal Malpractice, per Report

A businessman sued Democratic Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. in 2014 and accused him of legal malpractice and failing to reveal conflicts of interest.
August 23, 2022
A South Texas jury ordered state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. (D-Palmview) to pay $1.2 million in damages after a judge found him liable for legal malpractice in a divorce case, according to local media.

Progress Times reported that a trial in McAllen lasted for two days and the jury deliberated for less than an hour before handing up a decision on Tuesday.

A litigation financing firm called the Law Funder had invested $1.2 million to have a partial stake in nearly two dozen lawsuits in the caseload of attorney Willie Garcia. The Law Funder hired Muñoz after Garcia’s wife filed for divorce and jeopardized the company’s investment in Garcia’s suits, according to Progress Times.

However, Muñoz had years earlier started a law firm with the state district judge presiding over the divorce, Jesus “Jesse” Contreras. After years of litigation, another party in the case discovered the association between Muñoz and Contreras and successfully moved to have the judge recused.

The case went back to square one. By then, the Law Funder was virtually broke and gave up trying to recover its investment. The company sued Muñoz for malpractice and ultimately won after he repeatedly missed court dates, hampered the discovery process, and was even found in contempt of court, according to a report My RGV News.

The Texan Tumbler

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez decided against Muñoz by default and initially ordered him to pay $3 million in damages. However, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the district court after it found that Alvarez had incorrectly arrived at the price tag for damages.

The question decided by jurors last week was limited to damages, as Alvarez instructed them it was no longer a matter of debate that Muñoz had committed malpractice.

First elected in 2010, Muñoz represents House District 36, which covers portions of Hidalgo County. The district is rated D-67% on The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index.

When asked for a comment, Muñoz’s Capitol office directed The Texan to contact his attorney’s office, which also declined to comment.

An employee of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas indicated on the phone that the jury’s verdict is sealed.

A copy of the appellate decision ordering a new trial on damages can be found below.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."