Roof collapse at PG County warehouse hindering Howrey’s bankruptcy wind-down

The June warehouse accident at a Landover storage facility is hindering the ability of the defunct law firm Howrey to return tens of thousands of documents to former clients, according to the lawyer representing the firm’s creditors.

Attorney Allan Diamond said Howrey, the Washington law firm that filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011, stored about 60,000 boxes of client files at Recall, the document storage facility where the accident occurred June 28. The roof of the facility collapsed and killed one warehouse worker.

After Howrey dissolved, the estate had to map out a plan to return 55 years worth of confidential client files — including financial records and email correspondence — to the thousands of companies and individuals the law firm once did business with. That information is currently stored on data servers in Ashburn and Amsterdam, and in 220,000 boxes of documents in Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and Houston. About 60,000 of those boxes were in the Recall facility, Howrey’s largest storage vendor, Diamond wrote in documents filed with the bankruptcy court Monday.

Those documents may been destroyed during the accident or subsequent rescue efforts, and it’s unclear if and when the files could be recovered. The accident is “hindering the client file return process,” Diamond wrote.

Details about how the warehouse accident might affect Howrey’s files were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal .

“A substantial section of the warehouse roof collapsed, compromising a significant number of stored documents and exposing them to the elements,” Diamond wrote. “Recall is still determining the scope of damage and when, if ever, the documents will be recovered.”

Diamond expects all surviving client files to be returned or transferred to Howrey’s former clients by February.

Catherine Ho covers lobbying at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.

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