HUNTINGTON – A former client has sued five Huntington attorneys for failing to turn over his full case file from a dismissed federal lawsuit.
John M. Bourdelais and JMB Commercial Properties Inc. filed their complaint June 17 in Cabell Circuit Court against Richard J. Bolen, Cindy D. McCarty, T. Matthew Lockhart, John H. Mahaney and Daniel A. Earl, all former partners of Huddleston Bolen LLP, which merged earlier this year with Cincinnati-based Dinsmore & Shohl.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs hired the five attorneys in 2011 to represent them in a federal lawsuit regarding leasing issues. It was filed Aug. 10, 2011, and it was dismissed May 13, 2013.
The plaintiffs says they have paid the invoices in full to the attorneys to the tune of about $200,000.
In February, Huddleston Bolen merged with Dinsmore & Shohl and became the firm’s Huntington branch. In April, the plaintiffs hired attorney Roy D. Baker of Baker Law Offices in Huntington to review business matters, including the work of the attorneys on the federal leasing case.
“Bourdelais instructed Mr. Baker to inform his former counsel at Huddleston Bolen LLP that their responses to the inquiries which he intended to address to them should be director to Baker Law Offices PLLC, and that it was his further direction that all communications between his five former attorneys and Baker Law Offices PLLC should be in writing,” the complaint states. Baker wrote each of the five attorneys on April 20 asking specific questions that had been drafted on behalf of Bourdelais.
On May 20, Brian S. Sullivan of Dinsmore responded by providing 12 boxes of documents “limited almost exclusively to expert witness reports and depositions, and communications with expert witnesses” and by refusing to provide the balance of the requested information, according to the complaint.
“Until we understand from you what this is all about, we will not provide some of the information you seek,” Sullivan wrote in his letter of response.
The next day, Baker replied to Sullivan in an email to seek Sullivan’s “clarification of certain positions,” but neither he nor the five attorneys have responded. Three subsequent letters also were sent to the attorneys, the complaint states.
Included in those letters is a correspondence with Renee Frymyer of the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel saying “a former client of a law firm does not have to provide any reason whatsoever to the law firm when requesting a complete copy of their file from the law firm since the file is the legal property of the client.”
Bourdelais and JMB accuse the defendant attorneys – as well as their previous and current firms – of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and civil conspiracy.
They seek the full and complete original of their files from the five attorneys. They also seek the return of the approximately $200,000 in attorney fees from the previously dismissed federal suit as well as attorney fees and court costs related to this complaint. In addition, they seek compensatory and punitive damages, contractual damages, damages for annoyance, aggravation and inconvenience as well as sanctions against the defendants for refusing to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct.
“"We are disappointed that our former client has chosen to file a lawsuit against the firm,” Sullivan, who works in Dinsmore's Cincinnati office, said when asked for comment on the complaint. “This is not a claim of professional negligence. This lawsuit is a miscommunication over the return of a file and we are confident in the way in which the firm acted."
Baker is representing the plaintiffs in this case, which has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jane Hustead.
Cabell Circuit Court case number: 15-C-431