CHARLESTON – Georganne Landis ran up a $333,442.86 bill divorcing orthopedic surgeon A. E. Landis of Beckley, and she wants him to pay it.
She has asked the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to overturn a Raleigh County court order leaving the bill in her hands. The Justices are scheduled to hear the case Oct. 9 on their Argument Docket.
Circuit Judge Robert Burnside last year denied her motion to hold the surgeon responsible for her expenses.
Her attorney, Lyne Ranson of Charleston, wrote to the Justices this April that "Ms. Landis has no monies left in her retirement to pay her attorney, expert fees and costs."
His attorney, Elton Byron Jr. of Beckley, answered in May that "The Respondent has sufficient funds from which to pay her own attorney fees.
"If Dr. Landis can sustain his current earning capability, which is doubtful due to his age and health, he will still be financially disadvantaged when compared to the income and assets of Ms. Landis."
He wrote that, by court order, Dr. Landis would pay Ms. Landis $880,966.
Ranson answered that he owed her that much since December 2005.
"Ms. Landis has not received the first cent," she wrote.
As the Justices ponder who can better afford it, they will need to examine how the divorce happened in the first place.
Ranson aims to pin the bill on the surgeon by pinning the blame on him.
"... fault must be considered and given appropriate weight when deciding who pays the fees and costs," she wrote. "... this marriage would not have been dissolved, but for Dr. Landis' continued affair with his X-ray technician."
Ranson wrote that his infidelity devastated Ms. Landis, and that Dr. Landis and the technician are engaged to be married.
Dr. Landis' attorney answered.
"Ms. Landis could not come up with any evidence to support her allegations of fault on the part of Dr. Landis and by agreeing to the substantial settlement which Ms. Landis has received in this case, she has elected not to produce any evidence if it, in fact, even existed," Byron wrote. "Therefore, fault cannot be considered in this case because there was no fault shown."
Ranson then replied.
"Ms. Landis did not want a divorce from Dr. Landis," she wrote. "She wanted to keep her family together."
She wrote that because they resolved the divorce before trial, it was never necessary to present facts of his misconduct. Ranson also said he obtained a pager though he was not on call and used it to talk to his married X-ray technician.
"The cell phone bill was sent to his private post office box and paid by a separate company check," she wrote. "Furthermore, while the parties were married, Dr. Landis was out of town and staying at a hotel in Charleston, West Virginia."
She wrote that on June 4, 1999, at 1:06 a.m., "Ms. Landis called Dr. Landis at the hotel and his female X-ray technician answered the hotel room phone and handed the telephone over to a very sleepy and groggy Dr. Landis."
Dr. Landis bounces blame back at Ms. Landis, for spending so much.
Byron told the Justices she retained several attorneys and experts, and it was her choice to terminate them and no fault of Dr. Landis.
"Dr. Landis should certainly not be responsible for her inability to sustain a compatible relationship with her attorneys and experts," he wrote. "The problem in this case was that nothing would satisfy Ms. Landis and she insisted on continuing to dig for information that simply did not exist.
"What made this case complex, protracted, or contentious was the personality of the Respondent who was hell bent on attempting to destroy the reputation of Dr. Landis which she fell short of doing."
Ranson replied, "Dr. Landis continuously removed, dissipated and transferred marital monies that had to be tracked and subpoenaed because Dr. Landis would not provide the appropriate documentation."
They clashed over whether she could work.
"Ms. Landis has been out of the work force for nearly 20 years," Ranson wrote. "Ms. Landis does not have the ability to be employed ..."
Byron wrote, "... she is highly educated, intelligent, has independent wealth and real estate holdings aside from what she has received from Dr. Landis and has the ability to continue in gainful employment."
Last of all, they clashed over which of them was in worse shape.
Ranson wrote that Ms. Landis moves with pain and difficulty due to diabetes, arthritis, joint and disc degeneration, and four collapsed discs.
Byron replied that there was no evidence to support her allegations.
"The fact of the matter is that Dr. Landis is fast approaching the age of 65, is not in good health, and has had his income substantially depleted by court ordered obligations," he wrote.