CHARLESTON – Citing its filing well past the statute of limitations, a Kanawha County magistrate dismissed the small claim suit a former principal filed against her former attorney.
On July 11, a hearing was held before Kanawha Magistrate Julie Yeager on Charleston attorney Cynthia E. Evans' motion to dismiss the civil suit brought against her by former Flynn Elementary School Assistant Principal Debra A. Santer. Originally scheduled for April 30, the hearing was postponed at Santer's request.
As she did in her Feb. 29 reply, Evans asked the suit be dismissed because any claim Santer had against her had long since expired. Citing applicable state law, Evans said Santer's claims either were filed past the statute of limitations or weren't recognizable in magistrate court.
"There's simply no cause of action," Evans said. "These all expired in 2003."
In her originally complaint and suit filed on Feb. 25, Santer accused Evans of "submitt[ing] false bills, via mail constituting mail fraud ... ma[king] false defamatory statements ... and sign[ing] affidavits containing blatantly false statements." The purpose of her suit, records show, was to recoup $4,000 in legal fees "that were not rendered."
Records show Santer retained Evans in December 2001 to assist her in a grievance she filed against Kanawha County Schools for the manner in which the principal for Robbins Elementary was selected.
After listening to Evans' argument, Yeager asked Santer why she waited so long to file a suit especially when she originally filed one within the statute of limitations, but later withdrew it. Though she did not provide specifics, Santer said "it was not an act of giving up," but a matter of "taking care of issues more pressing."
However, Santer did say she dropped her original suit in 2003 because of a collateral complaint she filed against Evans with the state Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel. When ODC closed the case ruling it a "fee dispute," Santer said she was distraught.
"I was naively convinced that the information provided to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel was so clear cut that it was on open and shut case," Santer said.
Also, Santer said it was her understanding that the statute of limitations on filing a breach of contract claim was still in effect.
"But, if I'm not mistaken this has a 10-year statute of limitations," Santer said holding up a copy of the voided cashier's check she paid Evans.
Before Yeager could reply, Evans interjected saying there had to be proof of a written contract, and the statute of limitations on such claims was five years. Yeager concurred saying that because Santer retained Evans for legal services, the statute of limitations for filing a claim is two years.
"Needless to say, we're way over the date that something needs to have taken place," Yeager said.
Since ODC dismissed her complaint, and apparently Yeager was going to dismiss her suit, Santer asked Yeager what recourse, if any, she had to recoup the $4,000. Yeager told Santer she could appeal her ruling to Kanawha Circuit Court within 20 days of her ruling, but doubted any of the judges's would rule differently.
Santer said she would give that serious consideration as, in her opinion, "I believe Ms. Evans needs disbarred." At that point Yeager dismissed the case.
After a moment of silence in the courtroom, Evans looked over at Santer and said, "I'm here to tell you that if you continue to defame me ..." Before she could finish, Yeager asked Evans if she would like a copy of the dismissal order.
As Evans walked to the front of the courtroom, Santer replied, "I assure you we will meet again."
Kanawha Magistrate Court Case Nos. 08-C-547 and 02-C-3482