Tentative settlement reached in Hunt, Karr legal malpractice suit

By Lawrence Smith | Dec 4, 2009

Hunt CHARLESTON - A Jackson County woman's legal malpractice suit against two Charleston attorneys, including a state lawmaker, has been tentatively settled.


CHARLESTON - A Jackson County woman's legal malpractice suit against two Charleston attorneys, including a state lawmaker, has been tentatively settled.

The case of Wendy England vs. Mark A. Hunt, et. al. was scheduled for trial last month. The suit included Hunt's old law firm of Hunt and Serreno, Ed Steen, a legal assistant who stayed with Hunt at his new firm of Mark Hunt and Associates, and David R. Karr, another Charleston attorney.

Following an order entered on Oct. 1 by Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom, the parties met on Oct. 30 for mediation. Records show Charles S. Piccirillo with Charleston law firm of Shaffer and Shaffer served as mediator

In letter addressed to Bloom dated Nov. 2, the day trial was originally slated to begin, Piccirillo said, "I'm pleased to report that the parties approved, negotiated in good faith and we were able to get the case settled. You should expect a dismissal order from counsel shortly."

However, as of presstime, Bloom had yet to sign an order finalizing the settlement.

In the suit she filed on Dec. 18, 2008, England, a Given resident, 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 addition to legal malpractice against Hunt, Hunt and Serreno PLLC and Karr, England made a claim against Steen for practicing law without a license.

In July 17, Hunt, Karr and Steen filed a joint answer to England's suit. In it, the three denied most of England's allegations except that she did sign a contract with Steen and Jason Goad, a Hunt and Serreno attorney, for legal services.

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.

In addition to being an attorney, Hunt is a member of the House of Delegates. A Democrat, he is one of the seven-member 30th District representing Kanawha County.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 08-C-3394

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