CHARLESTON – Things looked rosy for attorney William Druckman when a judge awarded him $833,333.33 for serving as a special assistant attorney general, but the money bought him a load of trouble.
Attorneys Richard Lindsay and Pamela Tabor Lindsay, who worked with Druckman for eight years under an unwritten agreement, demanded half of his fee but did not get it.
Twenty-eight joint clients of Druckman and the Lindsays then discharged Druckman from their cases in Putnam Circuit Court.
In response Druckman sued the Lindsays in Kanawha Circuit Court, charging extortion, fraud, conversion and breach of contract.
Druckman also filed a motion in Putnam County to challenge his discharge from those cases.
Druckman and the Lindsays agreed in 1997 to share clients in medical malpractice cases.
Druckman possessed more experience in that line, but the Lindsays possessed a perfect marketing tool. Richard is a doctor and Pamela is a nurse.
Together they paid for newspaper and television advertisements featuring the Lindsays and Druckman.
In 2001, Attorney General Darrell McGraw sued drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma in McDowell County, claiming that the state incurred improper expenses connected to abuse of the pain killer OxyContin.
McGraw later deputized Druckman and attorneys in three other law firms as special assistant attorney generals in the case.
As a trial approached in 2004, McGraw and Purdue Pharma settled the case. The company agreed to pay $10 million.
McDowell County Circuit Judge Booker Stevens signed an order awarding a third of the payment to McGraw's special assistants. Stevens ordered the attorneys to divide it equally four ways.
The Lindsays have stated in court pleadings that Druckman paid them an amount less than half of his share. They have stated that they demanded half but did not get it.
Druckman then received notices that clients in Putnam County discharged him.
He sued the Lindsays last September. His attorney, Michael Farrell, claimed that the Lindsays induced clients to discharge Druckman.
For his claim of extortion, Farrell argued that the Purdue Pharma case did not involve a claim for personal injury.
"The case was not subject to their joint venture agreement," Farrell wrote. "Notwithstanding their lack of involvement in the case, R. D. Lindsay and P. T. Lindsay demanded payment of one half of the fees."
Farrell wrote that the Lindsays threatened to retaliate. He wrote that the discharge of Druckman from joint cases fulfilled the threat.
The Lindsays answered through attorney Larry Winter that clients "elected on their own and of their own free will and volition" to discharge Druckman.
Winter wrote that Druckman's characterization of the agreement as a joint venture was a legal conclusion requiring no response.
He wrote that the Purdue Pharma case was subject to the understanding and relationship between Druckman and the Lindsays.
He filed a counterclaim asking for judgment requiring Druckman to disgorge all sums by which he was "unjustly and unjustifiably enriched" at the expense of the Lindsays.
Farrell moved to dismiss the counterclaim. "Apparently, defendants would have it believed that by pure coincidence, roughly two dozen joint clients spontaneously fired Druckman for no reason."
Farrell also moved in Putnam County to block Druckman's discharge in 28 cases, all of which involve malpractice claims against surgeon John King.
Farrell requested a hearing on the discharge decisions, but his motion has not been heard.