Three civil suits against Putnam attorney put on hold due to bankruptcy

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 5, 2010

WINFIELD - A former employee, landlord and client will have to wait -- and stand in line -- to collect any money they say is owed them by a Putnam County attorney.

Last year, Amy Pleasants, Craig Miller and Cheryl and Danny Briscoe filed separate lawsuits against John Grafton. In their respective suits filed in Putnam Circuit Court, Pleasants alleged Grafton filed to tender payment for nine weeks of wages and two weeks of vacation pay when she worked for him as a legal assistant, Miller sought judgment against him for over $6,000 for current and back rent and the Briscoes accused Grafton of legal malpractice in failing to file an appeal of their personal injury suit that was dismissed in 2007.

However, both Pleasants' and the Briscoes' cases were placed on hold Jan. 8, when Grafton, and his wife, Sharla, filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Records show Grafton reached a settlement with Miller in October in which he agreed to pay Miller $10,000, and immediately vacate the property.

Chapter 13 allows for individuals to reorganize their debts, and begin repayment approved by bankruptcy court. A debtor gets to keep his or her property under Chapter 13 provided regular payments are made to the bankruptcy trustee under a court-approved plan.

Typically, repayments take between three to five years with unpaid and eligible debts discharged upon conclusion of the repayment period.


According to their petition, the Graftons list $643,468.43 in assets. The bulk comes from the their home, and other real property they own on Blue Lick Road in Winfield.

Records show, $187,468.43 in assets was in the form of personal property.

The Graftons list 27 creditors with a total of $704,676.06 in liabilities. The bulk of their liabilities, $502,900, are in secured claims owed to either Bank of America/Countrywide and Putnam County Bank for debts owed on their home, and business.

Records show Putnam County Bank is the creditor with the largest unsecured, nonpriority claim at $43,000 for a business loan. The remainder are mostly credit card debts with the largest owed to Bank of America/FIA Card Services for $37,000.

Listed among the creditors with unsecured, nonpriority claims are Miller and Pleasants. They list the total amount of $10,000 still owed to Miller, and $4,500 owed to Pleasants.

In the lawsuit she filed in September, Pleasants did not specify the amount of her outstanding regular and vacation pay.

Missing information

However, not listed in the Grafton's petition is the Briscoe's legal malpractice suit. This includes part four on the statement of financial affairs where the debtors are required to list all lawsuits filed against them the year preceding filing for bankruptcy.

The Graftons only list Miller's and Pleasant's suits which were filed on May 28 and Sept. 28, respectfully. Records show the Briscoes filed their suit on Dec. 23, 16 days before the Graftons filed their bankruptcy petition.

In their suit against Grafton, the Briscoes specified damages of $750,000, the amount they hoped to receive from the personal injury suit they first filed in 2004. The amount included $26,674.52 in medical bills Cheryl incurred in 2002 when she alleged she fell off the unlit stairs of friend's house.

The West Virginia Record attempted to get a comment from the Grafton's attorney, Andrew Nason with the Charleston law firm of Pepper and Nason, about their failure to include any mention of the Briscoe's suit in their petition. When contacted, Nason said, "You're telling me something I know nothing about."

After he was provided specifics, Nason said "I'll look into it and get back in touch with you." However, Nason did not return calls by presstime.

Also, records show the Graftons where not immediately forthcoming in providing the court all the necessary information for it to consider their bankruptcy.

In their initial petition, the Graftons failed to list not only the total value of their assets and liabilities, but also a detailed statement of their assets and liabilities, attorney disclosure statement and repayment plan. The Bankruptcy Clerk's Office notified the Graftons in a letter dated Jan. 11 of the documents missing from their petition, and they had until Jan. 22 to submit them.

Though the Graftons did file additional documents by Jan. 20, they were informed others were still missing or the ones they did file were deficient. The next day, records show, Nason filed a motion asking for an extension in filing the requested documents.

Judge Ronald Pearson on Jan. 27 granted Nason's motion giving the Graftons a new deadline of Feb. 11.

When the Graftons failed to meet the new deadline, Helen Morris, the trustee assigned to the case, filed a notice of conditional dismissal on Feb. 12. In her notice, Morris gave the Graftons until March 9 to file their repayment plan or risk their petition dismissed by the court.

Along with a proposed repayment plan, records show the Graftons on March 2, submitted missing documents including a summary of their current income and expenditures, and property they claimed as exempt.

The next day, Pearson set March 31 as the first meeting of creditors, and April 7 as the deadline for anyone to file an objection to the Grafton's proposed repayment plan.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 10-bk-30012; Putnam Circuit Court, case numbers 09-C-443 (Pleasants), 09-C-265 (Miller)09-C-537 (Briscoe)

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