CHARLESTON – Along with disciplining him in Eshenaur case, the state Bar Association ordered Raymond G. Musgrave to pay one client $5, and warned him about his lack of communication with another.
Along with the one filed in 1988 by the Eshenaur family, Musgrave has 10 other complaints in his disciplinary file. Though the Eshenaur complaint is the only one where a formal statement of charges was brought, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel felt Musgrave's actions in Dana Jones' and Vickie Smith's cases were enough to issue a mild rebuke.
In his complaint filed March 16, 1997, Jones, a Point Pleasant resident, said he hired Musgrave to help him file a personal injury suit from an on-the-job boating accident. According to his complaint, Jones received a settlement on May 11, 1995 for $6,242,89 to pay for related hospital and medical bills.
They reached an agreement, Jones says, that Musgrave was to use the settlement to pay all his bills. Should Musgrave be successful in getting any bills written off, he was divide the savings evenly with Jones.
Shortly after Jones won his settlement, Musgrave paid one doctor $500, disbursed $1166 to Jones and kept $4576.89. Since Musgrave had yet to pay on outstanding bills at the time the complaint was filed, Jones asked for the balance of the settlement.
On March 14, 2000, ODC closed its investigation into Jones' complaint. According to its findings, Musgrave did take "steps to make sure all bills were paid" and by Jan. 11, 2000, Musgrave's secretary reported per the 50/50 savings agreement, Jones was owed $5.
In his closing letter, Chief Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Bruce A. Kayuha said "Respondent [Musgrave] is advised to send Complainant the five dollars and this complaint is closed."
Eighteen months after ODC resolved Jones' complaint, Smith filed hers against Musgrave. A resident of Gallipolis, Ohio, Smith alleged that despite making regular payments to him for an outstanding legal bill, Musgrave brought suit against her to collect the balance.
According to her complaint, Smith hired Musgrave to represent her in her divorce. Though it is unclear if the divorce happened in West Virginia or Ohio, it was settled in January 2000.
By the time the divorce was finalized, Smith owed Musgrave $23,091.06. Prior to the settlement in April 1998, Smith says she made monthly payments to Musgrave until December 2000.
According to her complaint, Smith says Musgrave refused to accept her December 2000 and January 2001 payments. On Feb. 1, 2001, she received a letter from Brent Saunders about his intention to sue her on Musgrave's behalf for the $14,242.81 she had outstanding.
On Feb. 14, 2001, the suit was filed against Smith in Gallia Court of Common Pleas.
In her complaint, Smith said she was amazed at Musgrave's decision to sue her because he never expressed any dissatisfaction with her payments nor sent her an itemized invoice of her outstanding bill.
Initially, Musgrave denied failing to send Smith any invoices claming he submitted at least five to her.
However, when asked by ODC to produce these invoices, Musgrave "replied that there was no formal payment agreement between him and Complainant" and he "believed there was an oral understanding that payments for legal services were due upon receipt of the invoices."
According to the complaint, Musgrave settled the suit with Smith in January 2002 for $9,000. Musgrave defended his decision to sue Smith saying he's sued other clients before, like Donald Cheesbrew, for nonpayment of legal services.
Though Smith's complaint was referred to the Board's investigative panel, it found "there was insufficient evidence of a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct at this time."
However, in his closing letter dated March 8, 2002, Allan N. Karlin, the panel's chairman, reminded Musgrave of Rule 1.4 (a) about "keep[ing] a client reasonable informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information."
Also, Karlin said "the Panel strongly warns Respondent to communicate with his clients about his fee arrangements and his expectations of payment in order to avoid suing his clients for nonpayment of legal fees in future matters."