CHARLESTON – U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, ignoring a Louisiana lawyer's advice to mistrust Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva, has chosen her to lead a national committee of plaintiff lawyers suing over Digitek heart medicine.
Goodwin on Nov. 5 appointed 22 lawyers to a plaintiffs steering committee for lawsuits that the U. S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation assigned to him in August.
"Due to the large nature of the PSC the court finds it necessary to appoint a PSC Chairperson," Goodwin wrote.
"The court appoints Teresa Toriseva as Chairperson of the PSC," he wrote.
Toriseva thereby emerged without a scratch from a public collision with Daniel Becnel Jr. of Reserve, La.
On the public record, Becnel had filed descriptions of Toriseva's departure from two law firms, a business offer he made and she rejected, and her divorce.
Becnel offered them as examples of her untrustworthiness, but they backfired.
Other firms repudiated him in an Oct. 31 notice of support for Toriseva, and The West Virginia Record publicized his objection.
Goodwin's order not only ignored Becnel's objection to Toriseva but also rejected his application for appointment to the steering committee.
Becnel said in a Nov. 5 interview that he thought a previous story in The West Virginia Record upset Goodwin. He said Goodwin requested objections from anyone with knowledge of facts the court needed to know about applicants for the committee.
"I was reporting facts, nothing more, nothing less," Becnel said. "He doesn't have to pay attention to that and apparently he didn't."
"When you do what the judge requested, it turns out they don't want it and you're a trouble maker.
"No one else knew these things and there are a lot of other things I could have written. I didn't put a tenth of what the objection was because I didn't want to hurt that lady's reputation."
In another blow to Becnel, Goodwin appointed Carl Frankovitch of Weirton as co-lead counsel.
Frankovitch will team with Goodwin's earlier choices, Harry Bell of Charleston and Fred Thompson of Motley Rice in Mount Pleasant, S.C., as co-lead counsel.
Goodwin picked Bell and Thompson ahead of the rest to stop bickering among more than 125 lawyers representing Digitek clients.
Bickering continues anyway, as Becnel inflates his objection against Toriseva to an allegation against her, Frankovitch and Thompson.
"The three of them agreed to share fees and gather cases together," he said. "Now the three of them have all three major positions.
"They made a deal that they'd gather it all to themselves and screw the others. That appointment shouldn't be used to gather additional cases. Future cases don't belong to lead counsel."