Women sue WVDHHR, others for unpaid child support

CHARLESTON -- Six women are suing the secretary of the WVDHHR Bureau for Child Support Enforcement and Policy Studies, Inc., on behalf of their 10 children. Patsy A. Hardy, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Child Support Enforcement; Garrett M. Jacobs, interim commissioner of the WVDHHR Child Support Enforcement; and Heidi Talmage, deputy general counsel for the WVDHHR Child Support Enforcement, are also named defendants in the case. The six guardians -- Cynthia Kerner, Lori Coon, Robin Danberry, Kathy Cooper, Cecilia Nash and Lisa Roth -- claim the defendants have "engaged n a systematic practice of allowing West Virginia judgments for child support to lapse, causing the children who benefit from those judgments to lose child support from the obligors who owe and/or the opportunity to collect the judgments." The plaintiffs want to recover damages for the lost legal rights of behalf of their wards and on behalf of all other children similarly situated. On March 11, 2005, the WVDHHR Bureau for Child Support Enforcement made a motion of behalf of Kerner's children to determine arrears and alleged that Robert Blackhurt was in arrears for approximately $58,000, according to the suit. Kerner claims pursuant to the final order on petitions for appeal, the court ordered Blackhurt to only pay $111.72, plus $159.76 in internet. She claims the defendants' negligence resulted in her children losing approximately $57,728. On Jan. 30, 2008, the defendants filed a motion on behalf of Coon's child to determine arrears, and alleged Daniel C. Coon was in arrears in the amount of $2,593.89, but the BCSE terminated the collection, resulting in Lori Coon's child to lose $2,593.89 in child support The defendants determined Danberry's ex-husband was in arrears of approximately $40,000, but on Dec. 8, 2009, only ordered him to pay $14,793.15, resulting in the loss of $25,206.85 in child support. On May 22, 1998, Cooper was awarded a judgment against Larry Dean Deskins in the amount of $26,517.01, but by 2009 the defendants failed to renew the judgment and presented Cooper with a release of line saying the judgment was paid in full, which Cooper claims is not true. Cooper claims the defendants never advised her that the statue of limitations had expired and that she could not collect the judgment. Nash claims the defendants made a motion alleging the obligor was in arrears of $14,370.12, but on Sept. 19, 2008, he was only required to pay $156.67, resulting in the loss of $14,213.45. On April 19, 2007, Roth claims the defendants determined the obligor was in arrears in the amount of $75,780.99, but on Oct. 9, 2007, ordered him to only pay $44,969.77, resulting in the loss of $30,811.22. The plaintiffs claim the did all things proper and necessary to pursue their child support arrearages claims against the obligors through the BCSE, fully cooperated and informed the defendants and all information requested and acted in "good faith and detrimental reliance" that the defendants would timely pursue their children's arrearage claims. The plaintiffs are seeking that this action be certified as a class action on behalf of all of the proposed class and that they be designated as representatives of the class; that the court declare the breaches, omissions, negligence, legal malpractice and professional negligence of the defendants as unlawful, illegal and in violation of West Virginia law; that the court award the plaintiffs and all class members compensatory and punitive damages; and that the court award plaintiffs and all class members equitable, injunctive, mandamus and declaratory relief to require the defendants to place in the system procedures and processes to prevent such lapses from occurring in the future. The women are being represented by Charles "Rusty" Webb of the Webb Law Firm. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Tod J. Kaufman. Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-2356

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