Legal malpractice suit against Parkersburg attorney settled

By Lawrence Smith | Apr 6, 2012



PARKERSBURG – A Wood County businessman's legal malpractice suit against a Parkersburg attorney has reached a conclusion.

Records show Judge J.D. Beane dismissed Jeff Corra's suit against George Cosenza on March 1 after the sides announced they agreed to a settlement. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Todd Reed, Corra's attorney, said a confidentiality agreement prohibited him or anyone else from discussing the terms except to say the sides "reached an amicable resolution which allowed for the dismissal of the action." The dismissal also included Cosenza's counterclaim against Corra for $12,139.40 in alleged unpaid legal bills.

In his suit, Corra, 56, alleged Cosenza, 60, failed to adequately represent him five years ago when he was on trial for providing alcohol to minors. In September 2006, Corra was indicted on nine counts of furnishing alcoholic liquors to minors to friends of his daughter, Ashli, during a visit they made to the Corra home on Rector Road in Vienna the month before.

The indictment alleged Corra's actions contributed to the friends -– Courtney McDonough, Morgan Brown, Matthew Humphreys and Joshua Tucker –- becoming involved in a single-vehicle accident later on Rosemar Road. Though McDonough and Brown were only injured, Humphreys and Tucker died.

In January 2007, the grand jury would return a two-count indictment against Corra for involuntary manslaughter.

Though he was found guilty on four of the nine counts of furnishing, Corra successfully appealed his conviction to the state Supreme Court. The Court on Feb. 27, 2009, reversed the conviction finding that despite indicting him on furnishing alcoholic liquors, the prosecution throughout its case kept making reference to beer.

Corra maintained that he never furnished any alcohol to anyone, but only found out after the crash that McDonough, while he was outside burning brush, snuck a Coors Light beer from his refrigerator.

In writing the Court's unanimous opinion, Justice Menis E. Ketchum said both Cosenza, and Assistant Prosecutor Sean Francisco erred in allowing that mistake to happen. He said, "it is apparent that neither the prosecutor nor defense counsel read the statutes relating to the crime of furnishing 'alcoholic liquors' before the jury reached its verdict."

"The prosecutor" Ketchum added, "mistakenly informed a busy trial judge that beer was the same as alcoholic liquor for the purpose of proving the indictment. Likewise, it is not disputed that when the circuit court asked at the charge conference whether he should instruct the jury on the definition of alcoholic liquor, defense counsel stated that an instruction was not necessary because beer was an alcoholic liquor."

A related suit Corra has against former Wood County Prosecutor Ginny A. Conley for wrongful prosecution is still pending. Among other things, Corra alleges Conley failed to bring him to trial within three terms of the court, or one year, following the indictment on the involuntary manslaughter charges.

Records show, Conley's successor, Jason Wharton, moved to dismiss the indictment in September 2009, nine months after she left office. The suit names Francisco, who was also assigned both the involuntary manslaughter case, and Deputy Sheriff Dave Tennant, one of the investigating officers, as co-defendants.

Another investigating officer, Deputy Brent Pickens, has been dismissed from the suit. It is scheduled for trial on Tuesday, June 5 with a pre-trial hearing slated for Friday, June 1.

Wood Circuit Court case number 09-C-426

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