WINFIELD – More than two dozen companies of Powerball winner Jack Whittaker have filed a petition for injunction to keep his estranged wife from claiming any interest to land owned by them.
The companies filed the petition Aug. 22 in Putnam Circuit Court.
In the petition for injunction, the 25 companies say that Jewell Whittaker filed for divorce from Jack Whittaker on May 27, 2005, in the Family Court of Raleigh County. And on Feb. 26, 2006, she filed several Notices of Lis Pendens in Putnam and other counties against property owned by the petitioning companies "which the respondent alleges to have an interest in."
Lis Pendens is a notice that places potential purchasers on notice that a legitimate dispute exists as to who possesses a right to the title of land. The petition says notices of Lis Pendens are improperly filed against land which is owned by a third party regardless if the petitioner may have a disputed stock ownership or a disputed percentage ownership of the company that actually owns the land.
"A Lis Pendens can be filed for the purposes of collection of debts when land is possessed by a party to litigation but not to strong arm a claim to interest in real estate owned by a third party," the petition reads.
The Lis Pendens at issue, according to the petition, specified "any and all real property granted to any of" the petitioning companies.
The petition, filed by Beckley attorney Robert Dunlap, says, "A technically proper notice of lis pendens which meets all of the statutory requirements should be cancelled on equitable principles if in the discretion of the court the benefits of the notice are far outweighed by the damage it causes.
"In balancing equities, the court determines whether the application of the doctrine is harsh or arbitrary and whether cancellation would result in prejudice to a nonpetitioning party."
The petitioning parties then say that are not parties to the Whittakers' divorce action and "suffer undue hardship and interference due to the Lis Pendens attaching to all property in which Petitioners own."
The companies give a few examples of how the notices of lis pendens have harmed them. Those include being unable to obtain financial bonding or establish lines of credit. They also say they have been rendered "unable to continue their business and therefore continue employment of local laborers and support staff. Lines of credit allow these companies to engage in their business with vendors that require expedited cash payment for discounted materials, etc."
"Regardless of whether the Feb. 27, 2006, Notices of Lis Pendens were filed for the purpose of strong-arming, harassing or annoyance of the petitioners, the respondent has falsely assumed the right to encumber these separate legal entities ability to, among other things, engage in their regular course of business or leverage assets and real property that was not in fact owned by respondent," the petition states.
"It can hardly be argued that the interest and welfare of the petitioning companies' and their employees should be subjugated by a notice, filed without an evidentiary hearing, from a family law matter which failed to include the separate legal entities, directly named therein."
The companies seek to have the court issue an order expunging the Lis Pendens; enter an injunction restraining Jewell Whittaker from interfering with the companies' course of business. They also seek other relief deemed appropriate by the court.
The companies listed as petitioners in the case are Diversified Enterprises Inc., Whittaker LLC, Andrew Whittaker Investment Agency, Whittaker Equipment Inc., M&J Development LLC, Brewester's LLC, Beckley Speedway LLC dba Last Lap Lounge, Mancor Industries Inc., Blackburn Pre-Owned Autos LLC, Helicopter Flight Services Inc., Greenbrier Allegheny Construction LLC, Clearwater Construction LLC, JLW LLC, Absolut-Holdings LLC, Absolut-Huntington LLC, Absolut-Teays LLC, Absolut-Morgantown LLC, Absolut-Beckley LLC, Absolut-Parkersburg LLC, Whittaker Bookkeeping LLC, Whittaker Foundation, Whittaker Family Inc., Whittaker Family I LLP, and Whittaker Family Restaurants LLC.
Already a wealthy contractor, Jack Whittaker won the single-largest lottery payout of $315 million with a cash option of more than $113 million on Christmas Day 2002.
But since then, he's had several run-ins the law. That includes being charged with DUI in Kanawha County in January 2004 after he was found sleeping in his vehicle along Interstate 64 in Nitro. Kanawha Magistrate Tim Halloran later suppressed sobriety test results, causing the case to be dropped.
Later that year, Whittaker was charged with -- and later pleaded no contest to -- assaulting a bar manager in Putnam County. He was put on two years probation and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Earlier this year, two Summers County women filed a federal civil suit accusing Whittaker of assault and battery, groping them, threatening to kill one of their friends and illegally firing a gun.
Also this year, Whittaker settled a lawsuit with one woman who accused him of assault at Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center. Two other women still haven't settled with Whittaker in that case.
Putnam Circuit Court case number: 06-C-280