Legal malpractice suit filed against Wood attorney for botching '05 legal malpractice suit

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 22, 2009

PARKERSBURG - A 2005 legal malpractice case against a Ritchie County attorney has a new twist, as the attorney hired to help with the suit has himself been sued for legal malpractice.

On Jan. 8, James and Frances Arthur filed suit against James M. Bradley Jr. in Wood Circuit Court. In their complaint and suit, filed with the assistance of Bruce L. Freeman, with the Charleston law firm of Freeman and Chiartas, the Arthurs allege Bradley failed to properly represent them in a suit against Rodney C. Windom.

According to court records, the Arthurs retained Bradley on Jan. 5, 2004 to pursue a legal malpractice suit against Windom, an attorney in Harrisville. In their suit filed a year later, the Arthurs accused both Windom and Edward R. Coakley, a Pennsboro certified public accountant, of not protecting their interests in a 2000 condemnation proceeding.

At the time, the Arthurs were owners of Artie's Exxon and Mini-Mart on U.S. 50 near the Interstate 77 interchange. Along with several other businesses, Artie's Exxon was taken by eminent domain by the state Division of Highways as part of the Corridor D project in Wood County.

In their first malpractice suit, the Arthurs allege Windom and Coakley informed them so long as their property was replaced they would not have to pay any recognizable tax on the gain they received from DOH for three years after conclusion of the condemnation proceeding. However, the Arthurs allege they received a call from Windom on Dec. 23, 2003, saying he and Coakley were mistaken about the timetable.

The three-year period started at the beginning of the proceeding, and they had eight days to replace their property or risk paying a substantial tax.

Almost immediately, the Arthurs began contacting tax officials seeking relief. While waiting for a reply, the Arthur's discovered that Windom "engaged in no discovery, took no depositions and didn't schedule any hearings until the Summer of 2003."

Along with his reply to the Arthur's suit, Windom filed a counterclaim on Feb. 7, 2006 asking for legal fees and expenses of one-third of the estimated value of the Arthur's property. Court records show the fair market value of property was $183,000 as of Nov. 13, 2003.

Later, Windom would file both a motion to exclude any expert witnesses the Arthurs intended to call in their case against him and a motion for summary judgment due to Bradley's failure to respond to his discovery requests.

Records show, a hearing was held on Windom's motions on Oct. 12, 2006 before Judge Robert Waters. In their second malpractice suit, the Arthur's allege during that hearing, Bradley "was unable to give an adequate explanation as to why no expert disclosure had been made" but would do so in two weeks.

However, Bradley never made the promised expert witness disclosure thus prompting Waters on Feb. 7, 2007, to grant Windom's motions. In doing so, he ordered the Arthurs to pay Windom $61,108.33 in fees and $20,094.37 in interest.

After he denied their motion to reconsider on April 24, the Arthurs appealed Waters' ruling to the state Supreme Court on Aug. 23. Prior to the appeal, Waters entered a stay of execution on the judgment he awarded Windom.

The stay was lifted two weeks after the Court declined to hear the appeal on Jan. 23, 2008.

In addition to him personally, the Arthurs' suit also names the Bradley Law Office, PLLC and Bradley and Albright, PLLC as co-defendants. The Bradley Law Office is the successor law firm to Bradley and Albright were Bradley was partners with Joseph P. Albright Jr. until 2007.

In their suit, the Arthurs allege "the defendants negligently, carelessly, and in a deviation from applicable standards, breached their contractual obligations to provide competent legal representation to the plaintiffs." This negligence was a direct result in Windom being granted judgment of $81,202.70 against the Arthurs.

In addition to compensatory damages of $81,202.70 plus $10,000 in legal fees paid to Bradley, the Arthurs are seeking damages "for the loss of the use of these monies."

The case has been assigned to Waters.

Wood Circuit Court, Case Nos. 09-C-10 (Bradley malpractice) and 05-C-665 (Windom malpractice)

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