Our Team

Bobby Debelak

Partner

Phone: (713) 337-8853

Fax: (713) 333-5986

Email: bobby.debelak@mhllp.com

Office Location: Houston


Bobby’s practice focuses on property litigation and sophisticated retail energy and life insurance litigation. He is a highly versatile advocate who has built a practice ranging from cost-sensitive volume dockets to complex, multi-state RICO, class action, and insurance fraud litigation. Since joining MH he has represented clients of all sizes, from individuals and small businesses to national insurance and energy companies. He has twice been seconded to work as a litigator inside a large, publicly traded company, so he understands client needs from the inside and how to best serve them. He has tried dozens of cases to judges and juries everywhere from JP to County to District to Federal Court, and has briefed and argued appeals defending his victories.

Bobby is a first-choice lawyer and resident expert on the intricacies of civil RICO litigation, having successfully defended expansive RICO cases. He is also a go-to property litigator who represents public and private clients, including commercial and residential property owners, condemning authorities, and financial servicers in all aspects of property, landlord-tenant, construction, and eminent domain proceedings. Professionally, Bobby remains involved with moot court organizations in the Houston area, serving as a judge for formal competitions and as a practice judge and resource for various local teams.

Outside the office, Bobby stays active, reads at least a book a week (and he occasionally sends recommendations on his favorite recent books here). He is an avid boxing fan, and has mastered the art of the long weekend with his fiancée, Ashley. Bobby and his dog Erwin are both committed Texas Longhorns.


REPRESENTATIVE EXPERIENCE

RICO, CLASS ACTION, AND COMPLEX LITIGATION

  • Ulti-Mate Connectors, Inc. v. American General Life Ins. Co., et al.; Cause No. 14-1051 (C.D. Cal.). Represented American General and a former employee in a putative class action suit brought against American General, former employees, several individual advisors, Welfare Benefit plans, and the plans’ administrator. Alleging fraudulent misrepresentations in the sale of the Plans based on certain tax and financial representations, Plaintiffs brought RICO, commonlaw, and statutory claims against all Defendants. Bobby was a core member of the team that defeated Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, after which the case resolved on mutually agreeable terms. See Ulti-Mate Connectors, Inc. v. Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co., No. CV-141051, 2016 WL 2968046 (C.D. Cal. May 18, 2016) (slip copy) (denying class cert.).
  • Asokan, et al. v. American General Life Ins. Co., et al.; Case No. 6:15-cv-2048 (M.D. Fla.). Represented American General in a sixteen-plaintiff mass action brought against American General in Florida. Plaintiffs alleged fraudulent misrepresentations in the sale of the Voluntary Employee Benefit Plans based on certain tax and financial representations. Plaintiffs initially brought RICO claims, which were successfully dismissed. The case proceeded to a jury trial and, after six days of trial, resolved prior to verdict.
  • Smith, et al. v. American General Life Ins. Co., et al.; Case No. 5:16-cv-1893 (C.D. Cal.). Represented American General and a former employee in a fourteen-plaintiff mass action brought against American General, a former employee, and several individual advisors. Plaintiffs allege there were fraudulent misrepresentations in the sale of the Voluntary Employee Benefit Plans based on certain tax and financial representations, bringing RICO, common law, and statutory claims against the Defendants.
  • Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB et al. v. PHL Variable Insurance Company, et al., Cause No. 13-499 (D. Del.). Represented The Phoenix Companies in a mass action lawsuit brought by the trustee of approximately sixty life insurance trusts alleging that Phoenix violated RICO, various state consumer protection statutes, and committed fraud in allegedly issuing life insurance policies that it intended to rescind. After several rounds of dismissal briefing and a successful forum transfer, the Court granted in part Phoenix’s motion to dismiss and eliminated Plaintiffs’ RICO claims.
  • Richards v. Direct Energy Services, LLC, No. 14-1724 (D. Conn.). Represented Direct Energy in a class action lawsuit relating to Direct Energy’s variable rate pricing practices to its Connecticut consumers. After briefing, Direct Energy successfully eliminated other states from Plaintiffs’ class definition. At summary judgment, the District Court granted Direct Energy’s summary-judgment motion and denied class certification. Bobby was also a core member of the team that represented Direct Energy on the Plaintiff’s appeal to the Second Circuit, where the District Court’s decision was affirmed.
  • In re: ZF-TRW Airbag Control Units Products Liability Litigation (Central District of California)Represents a leading multinational electronics and semiconductor manufacturer in an MDL comprised of over twenty putative class actions. Plaintiffs brought claims for RICO violations, fraud, unjust enrichment, and numerous state consumer protection act violations against five leading vehicle manufacturers and two component part manufacturers relating to allegedly defective vehicle airbag units. MH challenged Plaintiffs’ complaint on jurisdictional grounds and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), which is currently pending before the court.
  • Consulted on numerous other class and mass actions involving RICO claims brought against insurers and their officers and directors.

PROPERTY, CONSTRUCTION, AND LANDLORD-TENANT LITIGATION

  • Ball, et al. v. The City of Pearland (412th District Court, Brazoria County, Trial Court Cause No. 104288-CV). Represents the City of Pearland in a dispute with two former property owners sued to repurchase a property condemned by the City of Pearland 18 years prior. MH successfully dismissed the claims through special exceptions and a dismissal motion, arguing that the repurchase statute and equitable principles Plaintiffs relied on did not apply to the taking at issue. Plaintiffs appealed, which is fully briefed and pending before the First Court of Appeals.
  • Represents a property owner in a suit by a tenant claiming health problems stemming from alleged mold issues. The trial court granted a no-evidence summary judgment in full in favor of the property owner. Bobby represented the property owner in the trial court, and then briefed and argued the case to the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, which is currently pending.
  • Represented property owner SRP Sub, LLC, in a dispute where the Court eventually found that the occupants forged deeds. After multiple evictions, state district court suits, appeals, and the occupant’s bankruptcy filing, all courts that heard the matter eventually sided with the property owner, granting clear title and possession to the property.
  • Represents various municipalities and condemning authorities in the greater Houston area in condemnation proceedings. Bobby has handled more than fifty special commissioner hearings and is a go-to condemnation lawyer for major suburban infrastructure projects.
  • Represented Western National Life Insurance Company in a roofing contract dispute where the roof of WNL’s customer service facility bubbled and cracked, creating leaks and exposing the roof structure. The case was mediated to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
  • Represented Prologis, a multi-national commercial property owner, in disputes in Texas and New Jersey relating to a roof leak in one of its 400,000 sq ft. Texas facilities. The highly technical and expert-heavy dispute involved a half-dozen parties, including the architect, general contractor, roofing subcontractor, and parts manufacturers and suppliers. The case was successfully resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
  • Manages landlord-tenant and forcible detainer docket for multiple institutional residential and commercial property owners, including repair and remedy issues; title issues and disputes; small claims issues; abandoned properties and UCC creditors (in commercial rentals); residential lease terminations due to domestic violence and court orders; security device replacement; tenants filing bankruptcy, which necessitates the need to file motions in the bankruptcy court to have the stay lifted (and often negotiate with their counsel); negotiations and disputes with HOAs; debt collection and consumer protection claims; and Section 8 payments and collections from prior property owners.
  • Represents mortgage servicers and hard-money lenders in various disputes regarding debt collection practices and title disputes.

COMMERCIAL & OTHER LITIGATION

  • Won a seven-day jury trial in Houston for an energy company and one of its employees who were sued by a former contractor for nearly $10,000,000. The jury returned a no-liability verdict on all five of the plaintiff’s causes of action. Bobby sat as second chair in the trial, cross examined third-party witnesses, and daily argued significant trial motions to the Court.
  • Represents law firm in dispute with former client regarding quality of services performed, and succeeded in obtaining a take-nothing judgment disposing of all the former client’s claims (December 2016). After the former client appealed, Bobby handled briefing and oral argument to Houston’s 1st Court of Appeal in December 2017. Following the appeal, Bobby successfully tried the remaining part of the case to the Court (Fall 2019).
  • Represented law firm in dispute with a board member who alleged a conflict of interest and an expanded attorney-client relationship in complex, multi-year litigation involving rescission of rights in an investment in a hospital. Bobby successfully defeated the Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion (2020). The case remains pending.
  • Has represented multiple former employees and small businesses in Title VII and discrimination claims, both defending and prosecuting the claims under Texas state and federal law.
  • Represented defendants DIS and American General against claims of breach of contract and violations of the DTPA, among others, arising from Defendants’ handling of Plaintiff’s disability benefits claim. Defendants’ second motion for summary judgment was fully granted. (2013-2014)
  • Represented insurers and other businesses in consumer protection suits involving the deceptive trade practice acts and unfair insurance practices act statutes of more than thirty states.
  • Represented Olympic gold medalist Chad Hedrick in an employment dispute.
  • Represented an accounting group and former employee to a walk-away settlement in which Plaintiff, who alleged breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets claims, took nothing.

PUBLICATIONS & SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

  • MH Lunch and Learn. Organizes and hosts monthly series on legal writing and training for junior associates. (2018 to Present)
  • The Fork in the Road: Litigating Civil RICO Claims for Insurers – Part 1, Basics of Civil RICO. One hour CLE explaining the basics of Civil RICO litigation and its relationship to ordinary common law fraud claims. (Mar. 2017)
  • The Fork in the Road: Litigating Civil RICO Claims for Insurers – Part 2, Advanced Topics for Insurers. Building on the basics, this hour-long presentation emphasized the unique challenges and defenses available to insurers and other consumer-facing industries that often use independent sales or distribution networks. (2017)
  • From Complaint to Answer: The First 30 Days. (CLE 2016)

AWARDS

  • Super Lawyers: Texas Rising Star, 2021 (Awarded to Top 2.5% Texas Attorneys)

ADMISSIONS

  • Texas
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Texas
  • United States District Court for the District of Colorado
  • United States Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit

EDUCATION

  • The University of Texas School of Law, J.D., cum laude, 2011
  • Lee University, B.A., Political Science, summa cum laude, 2008