Clay Mahaffey has been involved in plenty of headline-grabbing cases and big-money recoveries as a former longtime U.S. Department of Justice civil attorney.
But one case he reached a settlement in with a comparatively much smaller dollar amount left a significant imprint on the lawyer.
Nursing home chain Daybreak Partners agreed in 2016 to pay $5.3 million to settle allegations of egregious patient care. The settlement required the chain to submit to federal oversight and to make changes that Mahaffey said impacted hundreds of patients in meaningful ways.
Mahaffey thought he’d like to work for a private firm that would allow him to have more personal relationships with the plaintiffs he advocates for in court.
He believes he’s found that with prominent litigation firm Burns Charest in Dallas. The boutique announced Mahaffey’s new role as of counsel this week.
“I felt this would be a perfect fit and a place where I could make an immediate contribution on cases that mattered,” Mahaffey said.
Mahaffey spent 22 years in the Department of Justice, first as a trial attorney in the civil division and then as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Texas.
Mahaffey spearheaded more than 35 investigations, many involving whistleblower lawsuits, according to his work bio. His caseload has been varied, touching on the financial industry, complex torts, government contracting and complex regulatory issues. He’s served on DOJ teams that recovered more than $10 billion in settlements and restitution.
He is anticipated to expand Burns Charest’s False Claims Act case docket while working on business litigation, class actions, mass torts and other matters, according to the firm’s announcement.
“We are extremely pleased that Clay made this decision and look forward to tapping into his experience and skills to support our national docket of complex plaintiff-oriented cases,” firm partner Daniel Charest said. “He has earned an outstanding reputation on both sides of the aisle in litigating high-profile and important tort claims, and we’re very fortunate to have him as a member of our growing team.”
Several years ago, Mahaffey said he worked with Darren Nicholson, another of the firm’s partners, on a False Claims Act case. Mahaffey told The Texas Lawbook he was impressed with Nicholson’s work product and strategy. He enjoyed their collaborative relationship but didn’t think at the time it would lead to a job change. He was proud to be an assistant U.S. attorney.
“I loved getting up in court and saying, ‘I represent the United States of America,’” Mahaffey said. “There’s a little bit of an addictive quality to being able to do that.”
But he had a longing to develop client relationships. As an assistant U.S. attorney, his clients were often big institutional government agencies. He wondered what it would be like to serve private individuals or smaller groups. The nursing home chain case had influenced that curiosity.
“If you affect the way a nursing home operator is conducting themselves and just really impact the way that they’re providing care to their patients, that’s significantly impactful on those individual lives,” Mahaffey said.
Mahaffey said he looks forward to representing Burns Charest clients “whose causes I believe in and I really want to help.”