PARKERSBURG -- A potential class-action lawsuit against FiberNet over its July phone outage has been moved to federal court.
FiberNet had sought to have the suit removed from Wood Circuit Court to federal court, and that happened last week. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Parkersburg on Aug. 15.
"Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to state a claim against FiberNet upon which relief may
be granted and should, therefore, be dismissed," FiberNet said in its Aug. 21 answer to the complaint in federal court.
"FiberNet did not engage in any intentional wrongdoing, any departure from any prescribed or known standard of action, nor in any willful, wanton, malicious, reckless or egregious conduct; consequently, there is no actual basis to support the Plaintiffs' claim for punitive damages.
"The Plaintiffs' damages, if any, were proximately caused by the negligence, if any, of persons, firms or corporations other than FiberNet, and over whom FiberNet has no control. Thus, this comparatively reduces or bars any negligence or fault attributable to FiberNet."
Dave Armentrout, president of FiberNet, told a newspaper last week his company sought the change because the case involves principles of federal law.
"FiberNet believes this case is without merit and we will continue to vigorously defend our hard-earned reputation of quality service to our customers," Armentrout told the Charleston Daily Mail.
FiberNet has said that thousands of customers lost phone service July 10-11 because of an equipment failure.
On July 12 a lawsuit alleging breach of contract, fraud and negligence was filed against the company in Wood Circuit Court. The three plaintiffs listed on the suit are Complete System Support Inc. of Parkersburg, Neurological Case Management Associates LLC of Charleston and H.E. Gene Sigman, a private investigator in South Charleston.
Charleston attorneys John McCuskey, Mark Browning and Jason Wandling of Shuman McCuskey & Slicer filed the removal notice for FiberNet. Jim Peterson and Harry Deitzler of the Charleston law firm of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, as well as Charleston attorneys Anthony Majestro and J.C. Powell of Powell & Majestro, represent the plaintiffs and are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit.
According to news reports and blogs, the plaintiffs all have ties Peterson and Deitzler's law firm.
Peterson told the Daily Mail his firm has used Sigman's services in the past.
"Mr. Sigman came to us and asked about the outage and wanted to know what we could do about it, recognizing that we're one of the pre eminent class-action and mass tort law firms in the state," Peterson said. "If I go to a doctor and retain his services and that doctor later comes to me and asks me to represent him, is that a conflict?"
Peterson also told the Daily Mail that he is a friend of Mike Davis, president of Neurological Case Management Associates. He said Deitzler is a friend of the owner of Complete System Support.
"Rest assured there are about 20,000 businesses involved in this (FiberNet outage)," Peterson said. "We will have had contact with many of them -- such as United Bank, where I've got a checking account, and pizza places where I've bought a pizza. If that constitutes a conflict of interest, then you ought to be a judge. But you won't find any dirt on us."
Case number 6:07-cv-00505