Some people call it karma, and it's like a boomerang. Whatever you send out, thought or deed -- good or evil, it comes back, sometimes with a vengeance.

The lesson being to pay attention to what you're putting out because you can't refuse delivery when it's payback time.

That's something Charleston attorney Tom Lane of Bowles Rice may be pondering now.

Lane's firm and three others won one of the largest settlements in state history in a class action suit claiming that Columbia Natural Resources cheated lease holders out of the full value of their gas royalties. Now an engineering firm that helped win that multimillion-dollar suit is charging that it was cheated by Lane and other attorneys who went after Columbia.

In return for one third of the fees Lane would get from the settlement, Gaddy Engineering agreed to help him and his firm prepare for Tawney vs. Columbia Natural Resources and to encourage Gaddy's clients to join the suit. Although Lane's share of the settlement has not been made public, attorneys on the case garnered more than $125 million in fees. Months after the settlement, Gaddy received a check for "a relatively insignificant sum" and cried foul, according to the recently filed suit.

Gaddy's suit against Lane and his firm charges professional negligence, breach of contract, fraud, conversion and misrepresentation, etc.

It's seems ironic that Lane, a self-proclaimed champion of the cheated, would be accused of stooping to fraud, but the moral climate in the West Virginia justice system is not always viewed as exemplary.

If Columbia Natural Resources shortchanged its royalty recipients, then it should be required to make amends. But what exactly was accomplished long-term by the imposition of $270 million in punitive damages and the awarding of $125 million in attorneys fees.

Greed comes to mind. If it's okay to bring a legitimate business to its knees, is the next natural step to get in a money fight with the folks who provided critical help with the class action?

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