San Antonio law firm Langley & Banack sued after southwestern Texas ranch deal goes awry

Lawrence “Larry” Hancock, an heir to the founder of a fabric store chain, liked to invest in Texas ranches with the intent of selling them for a profit.

Hancock’s acquisitions included a 40,000-acre ranch in the Laredo area, as well as 18,000 acres split between two ranches in Val Verde and Kinney counties in southwestern Texas in 2006.

Hancock lived on the larger of the two ranches he bought in 2006 — the 12,572-acre Weston Ranch, where he hunted white-tail deer and other game and worked on the property.

Though a Mississippi native, Hancock appeared Texan.

“Little bit of cowboy in him, I would say,” said Catherine Hancock McMahan, Hancock’s oldest daughter, 42. “He enjoyed hunting and riding around seeing what he could see. He loved the wildlife, the different plants and all that the land had to offer. He liked everything about it.”

Hancock, 71, no longer roams the ranch. He has dementia and resides in an assisted-living facility in Tupelo, Miss.

Former South Texas ranch owner Larry Hancock's oldest daughter, as his conservator, is suing the San Antonio law firm Langley & Banack for legal malpractice and fraud in connection transactions involving a 12,572-acre ranch in Val Verde and Kinney counties. He allegedly signed documents relating to the ranch when he had dementia, the daughter alleges.

Former South Texas ranch owner Larry Hancock’s oldest daughter, as his conservator, is suing the San Antonio law firm Langley & Banack for legal malpractice and fraud in connection transactions involving a 12,572-acre ranch in Val Verde and Kinney counties. He allegedly signed documents relating to the ranch when he had dementia, the daughter alleges.

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The Weston Ranch has been sold, disposed under duress to avoid a foreclosure by the company his father started and that held a note on the property.

Fights over various Weston Ranch transactions erupted in Mississippi and San Antonio courts, including a couple that pitted McMahan — as her father’s court-appointed conservator, watching over his estate — against various parties, including the family company and Hancock’s three sisters.

Last month, McMahan sued San Antonio’s largest law firm, Langley & Banack, for more than $27 million, accusing it of legal malpractice and defrauding Hancock, a longtime client, in connection with the ranch transactions.

The transactions involved partnerships — whose partners included John Petry, a senior lawyer at Langley & Banack — that acquired the Weston Ranch’s land and its water and mineral rights, with the idea of flipping them for a huge profit, McMahan alleges.

Hancock also was a partner in the partnerships, holding about a 44.5 percent stake. But McMahan alleges her father’s signature was forged on various documents. He ultimately was stuck with debt owed by the partnerships when they couldn’t find a buyer, she says.

Shane Langston, a Jackson, Miss., lawyer for McMahan, called it “the most egregious” legal malpractice case he’s ever seen.

Langley & Banack hasn’t filed a response to the complaint yet, but San Antonio lawyer Henry Gonzalez, who is defending the firm, disputed McMahan’s allegations.

Yung A. Elizabeth

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