Lawyer wants Davis off nursing home appeal

By Chris Dickerson and Kyla Asbury | Jan 16, 2015

CHARLESTON – One attorney has written a letter to the state Supreme Court saying he believes Justice Robin Jean Davis should recuse herself from a nursing home case because of her husband's sale of an airplane to the plaintiffs' law firm in the case.

On the same day, the plaintiffs' attorney wrote a letter saying he doesn't believe Davis has a need to excuse herself from the case.

On Jan. 9, state Supreme Court Clerk Rory Perry wrote a letter to inform counsel in an appeal regarding an AMFC LLC nursing home case that that Scott Segal, Davis' husband, had sold his law firm's LearJet to the McHugh Fuller law firm based in Hattiesburg, Miss.

In Perry's letter, he states that the sale took place several years ago and that Davis had no involvement in the transaction, financial or otherwise, and that she is of the opinion that there is no basis for her disqualification in the matter.

The letter states that out of an abundance of caution and to avoid the appearance of impropriety, Davis requested that counsel inform the clerk of the court in writing, no later than Jan. 13 at noon whether they had objections to her participation.

"If there is an objection, the objecting party must file a motion for disqualification under Rule 33 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure for consideration by Justice Davis," the letter states.

On Jan. 12, Ryan A. Brown of Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC, filed his letter, stating that he believe Davis should recuse herself. Brown represents the nursing home company.

"After careful consideration of the disclosure, petitioners do believe there is a basis for disqualification and will file a motion pursuant to Rule 33 within [30] days of receipt of your letter," the letter states.

Fuller also responded to the letter on Jan. 12, stating he does not believe Davis should recuse herself.

"The airplane that is the subject of Justice Davis' disclosure was purchased over three (3) years ago from Mr. Scott Segal's law firm through the use of a broker; thus, there was never any direct contact with Mr. Segal, and Justice Davis was not involved in the purchase in any fashion," Fuller's letter states.

Fuller states that because he believes there is no basis for Davis' disqualification, counsel has no objection to Davis participating in the appeal.

AMFC runs nursing homes in West Virginia. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the nursing homes over the years for alleged negligence and abuse of residences of the nursing homes.

In December, ABC News reported on an investigation it had conducted into McHugh Fuller and the plane it purchased from Segal.

The report was titled "Lear Jet Justice in West Virginia? A 'Circus Masquerading as a Court'," and revealed that Segal sold the plane to Fuller for just over $1 million and that Fuller then helped raise thousands of dollars for Davis' 2012 re-election campaign.

Fuller encouraged attorneys, family and friends to make donations to West Virginia candidates in the 2012 election.

Davis received $27,500; Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin received $15,000; the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee received $20,000; and Letitia Chafin received $18,100, totaling $80,600 for that year.

In previous years, McHugh Fuller employees, family and others gave a total of $3,000 in 2008; $8,000 in 2010; and $9,000 in 2011.

All this occurred while McHugh Fuller had a nursing home abuse case pending before the state Supreme Court.

In June, Davis authored the majority opinion, upholding a jury verdict in favor of Fuller's client, Tom Douglas. She did, however, cut the punitive damages award from $80 million to nearly $32 million.

Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry dissented in the opinion, calling the majority's opinion "shockingly result-oriented."

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