MORGANTOWN - An attorney who advised the late John Faltis was found not guilty in a legal malpractice case March 10 in Monongalia Circuit Court.
David Shapiro, of Spilman, Thomas and Battle, will not have to pay nearly $5 million that was sought by the estate of Faltis, which claimed to have spent $2.9 million, plus interest, on taxes because of Shapiro.
Tom Flaherty and Nate Tawney of Flaherty Sensabaugh & Bonasso represented the defense.
Faltis was a prominent Morgantown businessman who died in 1997 in a helicopter crash near the Sago Mine in Upshur County. Faltis was the Chief Executive Officer of Anker Coal when he passed away at 55.
In 1991, he came to Shapiro for advice regarding his estate. The plaintiffs argued that Shapiro should have suggested an irrevocable trust between Faltis and his wife Kathleen. Flaherty and Tawney argued that he shouldn't have because the two hadn't even been married a year.
"It wasn't the appropriate thing to do in those circumstances," Flaherty said.
Flaherty added that Faltis would return for advice years later, and Shapiro eventually did suggest an irrevocable trust. However, Faltis denied.
The combined estates totaled $17 million. In Judge Ross Clawges' courtroom, a jury found that Shapiro did nothing wrong in regard to advisement.
"It was a good win," Flaherty said. "He's a very good lawyer."
Spilman, Thomas and Battle is a statewide firm that has been around since 1864. Flaherty, a defense lawyer for 33 years, was happy they called on him to represent them.
"I like to think they wanted the best," he said while laughing.
The four-day trial resulted in the jury deliberating for less than an hour.