PARKERSBURG -– A Wood County attorney is once again a defendant in a legal malpractice suit.
James Bradley Jr. is named in a two-count legal malpractice and breach of contract suit filed by Harold Jackson in Wood Circuit Court. In his complaint filed Feb. 10, Jackson alleges Bradley's inaction in an 2001 appeal he filed challenging a $1,500 sales tax bill from the state Tax Department against his trucking business ultimately resulted in him paying $33,000 to settle the disputed bill.
Jackson's suit is the second legal malpractice suit filed against Bradley in the last three years by a small business owner. In 2009, the owners of a now demolished convenience store on U.S. 50 alleged Bradley's inaction in a 2005 legal malpractice suit they filed against a Ritchie County attorney resulted in an $81,000 judgment issued against them in 2007.
Four years and $30,000
In his suit, Jackson says in 2000 the Tax Department issued a finding that his trucking company, Deem Trucking and Excavation, failed to pay $1,500 in sales taxes. The suit is unclear if Jackson still owns the company.
Nevertheless, he hired Bradley to appeal the Tax Department's finding to Wood Circuit Court. According the suit, the appeal was filed on Aug. 27, 2001.
Six months later, the Tax Department filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the grounds an appeal bond was not posted, and it was filed past the statute of limitations. Neither the cost of the bond, nor the statute of limitations is stated in the complaint.
Eventually, Judge Robert A. Waters dismissed the case, but on the grounds it was inactive for more than a year. In the fours years since the Tax Department filed its motion, and Waters' dismissal, Bradley "failed to do anything whatsoever to prosecute this petition."
However, Jackson alleges he did not learn of Waters' dismissal for another four years. It was then on an unspecified date in 2009, the Tax Department sent him a bill for $33,000, the original 2000 assessment plus interest and penalties.
According to the suit, Jackson hired Richard Hudson, an attorney with Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff and Love, in January 2010 to make sure the assessment wasn't erroneous. He paid him $1,500.
In a letter dated Oct. 11, Hudson informed Jackson the assessment was correct, and by May 1, 2009, had grown to $34,767.48. Also, he said Jackson had no recourse to challenge it due to the dismissal of his appeal in 2005.
On an unspecified date, Jackson paid the Tax Department $29,986.02 to settle the original $1,500 debt.
In his suit, Jackson claims had Bradley used the "knowledge, skill and ability ordinarily possessed and exercised by members of the legal profession in similar circumstances" he would've paid over $30,000 in sales taxes on a business "where no goods were sold." As a result of Bradley's malpractice, Jackson alleges he's incurred "stress, hardship, loss of enjoyment of life, [and] negligent infliction of emotional distress."
Jackson seeks unspecified damages, including recovery of the $1,500 he paid to Hudson, and the $29,986.02 to the Tax Department, interest, attorney fees and court costs. He is represented by Parkersburg attorney Jay W. Gerber Jr.
The case is assigned to Judge Jeffrey B. Reed.
More legal malpractice
A tax dispute is at the center of the other legal malpractice suit in which Bradley is involved. In 2005, Bradley, filed a legal malpractice suit on behalf of James and Frances Arthur, the former owners of Arties Exxon, against Rodney Windom, a Harrisville attorney, for erroneous advice he and Edward R. Coakley, a Pennsboro certified public accountant, gave the Arthurs about replacing their property taken in a 2000 condemnation proceeding to make improvements to the Interstate 77 interchange.
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, 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.
In addition to an answer and counterclaim, Windom filed a motion to exclude an expert witness and summary judgment in 2006 after Bradley failed to respond to his discovery requests. In February 2007, Waters granted Windom's motion, and ordered them to pay Windom $61,108.33 in fees and $20,094.37 in interest.
The Arthurs filed suit against Bradley in 2009 a year after the state Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal of Waters' ruling. Their suit also names Bradley's current firm, the Bradley Law Office PLLC, and the firm he shared with now-suspended Parkersburg attorney Joseph P. Albright Jr. until 2007, Bradley and Albright PLLC, as co-defendants.
Since then, Bradley filed his answer to the Arthurs' suit denying their allegations except where Windom filed his motion for summary judgment, Waters held a hearing on it and made a ruling favorable to Windom. In his answer dated March 2, 2009, Bradley asserted a defense that the Arthurs, and not he, are to blame for the adverse ruling.
Records show the case has been dormant for over a year. The last filing in the case was on Feb. 5, 2009, on a motion for sanctions filed by the Arthurs' attorney Bruce Freeman.
Prior to the motion for sanctions, Freeman on July 1, 2009, made a motion for summary judgment. Though a hearing was scheduled for Sept. 4, records show Waters, who is assigned the case, has yet to rule on it.
Also, he has yet to set a trial date.
Wood Circuit Court case numbers 11-C-56 (Jackson) and 09-C-10 (Arthur)