CHARLESTON -- A prominent Charleston attorney has been sued by Snowshoe Mountain for failing to pay a nearly $5,000 homeowners fee.

In their response, Rudolph DiTrapano and his wife Martha claim Snowshoe "arbitrarily and drastically" raised the fee rate and seek punitive damages.

Snowshoe's suit originally was filed in February in Kanawha County Magistrate Court but was forwarded to Kanawha Circuit Court on April 7.

In the suit, Snowshoe claims the DiTrapanos owe the principal amount of $4,983.24. The payment was due on Sept. 16, 2004.

In their answer and counter-claim, the DiTrapanos deny they are indebted to Snowshoe. They also say Snowshoe is guilty of breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment, and they seek punitive damages from the Pocahontas County resort.

They say Snowshoe "arbitrarily and drastically raised the amount of the assessment fees so as to render them unreasonable. … Although never fully disclosed to the defendants, they believe such assessments are for activities such as plowing the roads."

The couple says they have paid the fees in the past, but the last bill cycle saw "a drastic and marked increase in the amount assessed."

They said they had been paying about $1,200. But the last bill was for nearly $5,000. They say they unaware if other property owners saw similar hikes and say they were not provided notice or justification for the fee hike.

"If other property owners are charged a similar assessment fee, then Snowshoe Mountain has materially misrepresented the actual costs to Snowshoe Mountain in providing services such as plowing as the aggregate amount of funds collected would far exceed the amounts expended.

"If other property owners are not charged a similar fee, then Snowshoe Mountain has materially misrepresented to the defendants the amount of the assessment fee."

On March 20, the DiTrapanos filed a motion to dismiss the suit in magistrate court. That motion was denied March 24 by Magistrate Julie Yeager.

Snowshoe is represented by attorney Jeffrey Gould of Martin & Seibert in Martinsburg. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jim Stucky.

DiTrapano is the managing member of DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero, which is one of three law attorneys chosen by state Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office to file a lawsuit against drug company Purdue Pharma. That suit resulted in a $10 million settlement and $3.3 million in legal fees, which the three firms shared with a Washington, D.C., firm.

Attorneys in DiTrapano's firm and their family members also contributed at least $30,000 to Atttoney General Darrell McGraw's 2004 re-election campaign. That figure represents nearly 15 percent of all the contributions McGraw received in that run, according to campaign financial statements filed with the state Secretary of State's office.

The couple also are the parents of attorney Dante DiTrapano, who recently was arrested in Florida on drug charges.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 06-C-653

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