Attorney, law office charged with legal malpractice

By John O'Brien | Aug 4, 2006

CHARLESTON - A Dunbar woman is accusing Barton Law Office of misappropriating funds from her dead mother's estate.

Karen Richardson, acting as Executrix of the Estate of Freeda Pringle, says Jeffrey Barton and Barton Law Office stole at least $25,000 from Pringle's estate and lost her case file in a lawsuit filed July 27 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

She says that Pringle, who died Feb. 15, 2004, at 92 years old, enlisted Barton's services with a personal injury claim that stemmed from an automobile accident.

According to Richardson, Barton was to receive one-third of any proceeds gained from the case and was not under contract to perform any other legal services.

She says Barton represented Pringle for 11 months and began to suspect that money from the lawsuit had been misappropriated in July 2004.

Richardson claims her mother was excessively billed by Barton for work not performed or needed "at an hourly rate above and beyond the contingency fee he was entitled."

Richardson says Barton has misappropriated more than $25,000 owed to Pringle and also billed her estate $3,000.

When Richardson attempted to recover a copy of Pringle's file and accounting, she says Barton produced neither.

Barton is alleged to have been negligent and careless by: Failing to provide the minimum standard of care, failing to act with a degree of competence, failing to adequately advise a client, failing to provide adequate accounting, excessive billing, misappropriating funds, overcharging the estate, losing the file and failing to protect the file.

She says by losing the file, Barton has violated the attorney-client privilege and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and court costs.

Sissonville attorney Kevin Hughart is representing Richardson.

Judge Tod Kaufman has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1472

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