CHARLESTON – A Beckley orthopedic surgeon must pay half of his former wife's $313,000 bill for legal fees and accounting services in their divorce, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has decided.
Georganne Banning Landis had argued that Dr. A. E. Landis should pay the whole bill, and he had argued that he shouldn't pay any of it.
On Nov. 8, the Justices unanimously agreed that fairness required an even split.
They reversed Raleigh Circuit Judge Robert Burnside, who had ruled that Ms. Landis had to bear her own costs.
Her bill included about $171,000 for attorney Lyne Ranson of Charleston and about $142,000 for accountants.
In an unsigned opinion, the Justices found that Dr. Landis's intransigence aggravated the cost of the divorce. They wrote that he continues to earn substantial income and is in a better position to absorb the cost.
Dr. and Ms. Landis began divorce proceedings in 1999. They obtained a divorce in 2002, but did not reach agreement on dividing their wealth until 2005.
"Every issue of the divorce case was contested," the Justices wrote.
They wrote that the parties owned many business interests, several homes in three states, numerous pieces of property, bank accounts, pension accounts and individual retirement accounts.
"Dr. Landis had approximately 22 life insurance or disability policies, which had to be researched to determine their cash value," they wrote. "In some instances it was more than four years before Ms. Landis could receive critical documentation from Dr. Landis and his agents to properly value the marital estate…"
At oral arguments Oct. 9, Ranson told the Justices that Dr. Landis had not complied with a court order to make the final payment in their equitable distribution.
For Dr. Landis, Elton Byron of Beckley answered that he had made partial payment.
The Justices chose not to settle that dispute, noting that Burnside's order was silent on the merits of the competing assertions.
Instead they instructed Raleigh County Family Court to see that Dr. Landis pays Ms. Landis all that he owes within 90 days.