CHARLESTON - A Jackson County woman's legal malpractice suit against two Charleston attorneys, including a member of the state House of Delegates, is scheduled for later this Fall.
On May 11, Kanawha Circuit Judge Louis H "Duke" Bloom scheduled Nov. 2 as a trial date in the case of Wendy England v. Mark Hunt, et al. England, a resident of Given, alleges that Hunt, one of his employees, Ed Steen, and another attorney, David R. Karr Jr. botched a personal injury claim she had against a federal employee.
In the suit she filed on Dec. 18, England alleges she came to Hunt in 2004, when he was then partner with Tony Serreno, to file a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act against Deputy U.S. Marshal Richard B. Sellers. On Jan. 15, 2004, England was involved in car collision with Sellers, a resident of Cottageville, at the Interstate 79 and 77 interchange above Charleston.
England's case was assigned to Steen, who she claims did file a timely claim with the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, D.C. A letter from the USMS' attorney dated Dec. 2, 2004, rejected the claim and reminded Steen he had six months to dispute the rejection in U.S. District Court.
However, England alleges she was not informed of the rejection until almost a year later. By this time, Hunt and Serreno dropped her as a client, and referred her to Karr.
On Jan. 11, 2006, Karr did file a suit against Sellers, but in Kanawha Circuit Court. After it was transferred to U.S. District Court the next month, Judge Robert C. "Chuck" Chambers on Sept. 27, dismissed part of England's suit, and remanded part of it back it state court where it was subsequently dismissed.
In her malpractice suit, England names the Hunt and Serreno law firm as a co-defendant. Her claims of legal malpractice include Steen practicing law without a license.
Despite filing a notice of legislative immunity on Jan. 16, Hunt via his attorney Kenneth Hicks, on Jan. 26 filed a motion to dismiss the suit. He made the motion on the grounds that England filed her malpractice suit past the statute of limitations, and that an investigation by the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department found that England was at fault for the collision.
After filing a second notice of legislative immunity he filed following the Legislature's decision to adjourn on April 11 to return in May for a special session, Hunt along with Karr and Steen filed a joint answer to England's suit on July 17. Represented by Huntington attorney Larry A. Winter, the three denied most of England's allegations except that she did sign a contract with Steen and Jason Goad for legal services from Hunt and Serreno.
Also, they agree that she "suffered certain injuries and incurred certain as a result of the accident." but are without knowledge to form a belief as to its truthfulness.
Furthermore, any incorrect information Steen provided to England about the statute of limitations was provided "inadvertently and unknowingly." Though they admit he is not an attorney, a prior finding of the state Bar's Unlawful Practice of Law Committee found since he was closely supervised by one or more of Hunt and Serreno's attorneys, Steen could render certain legal advice.
Following a separate motion Karr made on Aug. 3, Bloom has scheduled Sept. 24 for hearing on why Karr should be dismissed from the suit. He is now represented by Rodney Smith with the Charleston law firm of Bailey and Glasser.
Hunt, who now operates the law firm of Hunt and Associates, was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1992 in then-newly created 31st District. He vacated his seat in 2000 to run unsuccessfully for the state Senate.
Hunt made a political comeback in 2002 running successfully for the 30th District where he served until 2006. He again vacated his seat, this time to run unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District.
However, Hunt made a second political comeback last year in rounding out the Democratic ticket for the seven-member 30th District in the May primary. Facing token Republican opposition, Hunt, 49, along with incumbents, Bobbie Hatfield, Bonnie Brown, Danny Wells, Nancy Peoples Guthrie and Sharon Spencer along with newcomer Douglas Skaff Jr., sailed to victory in November's general election.
Karr himself dabbled in politics, severing briefly as the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney in the 1990s. A resident of Charleston, Karr, 48, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully in November against former Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Rebecca Stafford Cornett for the newly created family law judgeship in Jackson, Mason and Wirt counties.
A pre-trial hearing on England's suit is scheduled for Oct. 23
Kanawha Circuit Court, Case No. 08-C-3394