CHARLESTON – A prominent Charleston law firm has filed suit against the company that produces Verizon's phone books, saying its ad was screwed up in the latest Charleston edition.
Richard Neely and Mike Callaghan filed the suit for Neely & Callaghan on June 10 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
The attorneys claim Idearc Media Corp. ran an incorrect ad for the firm. The ad mostly had copy for Neely & Hunter, Neely's former firm.
"What it does is paints our firm and us as individuals in a false light to the public," Callaghan said Wednesday. "If you look at what's in the book, the way it reads, it says Callaghan at top, but lists Hunter in the bottom. It puts me and our firm in a false light."
Neely is a former state Supreme Court justice and Yale Law School graduate, and Callaghan is a former Congressional candidate, former federal prosecutor, former state Secretary for the Environment and former chair of the state Democratic Party.
"Neely & Callaghan does not advertise in the greater Charleston area because the lawyers are well known," the attorneys claim in the suit. "The primary vehicle for connecting clients with Neely & Callaghan is the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory prepared by Defendant."
The suit says Neely and Roger Hunter's partnership ended in May 2007. Hunter now is with Spilman Thomas & Battle.
In November, according to the suit, Neely & Callaghan purchased an ad with Idearc. The correct version of the ad appeared in the Teays Valley edition of the Verizon phone book.
But the ad that ran in the Charleston edition was headlined Neely & Callaghan, but the ad included information about Neely and Hunter. That included misrepresenting services the new firm offers.
Neely & Callaghan's office manager asked to see a draft version of the ad, but was told that Idearc doesn't do that, according to the suit.
"Now, for an entire year, the staff of Neely & Callaghan must take calls for Roger D. Hunter and waste its time properly referring those calls to the correct firm," the attorneys claim in the suit.
The attorneys also say Idearc libeled the firm by filing a false statement to credit reporting agencies that they didn't pay for the ad when Idearc knew that it had breached its contract with them and no debt was owed.
The defendants "regular course of conduct is to extort money from wronged customers after [it] has breached its contract by threatening to refuse to publish further advertisements in its quasi-monopoly telephone directories if wronged customers fail to pay charges for contracts that were nonetheless breached," the suit states.
The lawsuit seeks a maximum of $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages as well as court costs and interest.
"We will be quantifying damages, yes," Callaghan said. "Some are unquantifiable in respect to reputation. There's not a formula to say how much. But yes, we will be looking at those numbers.
"We are looking at our phone call volume to determine how much it's gone down. We are looking to see who has trouble getting a hold of us. It's me in particular. But it says we do work that we don't do. We're a top-shelf litigation firm. We defend people and sue people. It paints us falsely as saying we do things like structured business buyouts and securities.
"I hate that we had to file the suit, but that's life."
With office for Idearc located in the same building as his law firm, Callaghan said it has been awkward at times.
"We like them, and we get along with them fine," he said. "They messed up, and we asked them to help out. And now we're here where we are."