Former client amends complaint to add legal malpractice

By Chris Dickerson and Kyla Asbury | Jul 22, 2015

HUNTINGTON – A lawsuit filed by a former client against five Huntington attorneys has been amended to assert a legal malpractice claim.

The amended complaint lists Richard J. Bolen, Cindy D. McCarty, T. Matthew Lockhart, John H. Mahaney, Daniel A. Earl, Huddleston Bolen and Dinsmore & Shohl as defendants in the suit.

John M. Bourdelais and JMB Commercial Properties Inc. filed the amended complaint on June 22 in Cabell Circuit Court, adding a legal malpractice claim on top of the breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and civil conspiracy claims that were noted in the original complaint.

The plaintiffs claim they hired the attorneys in 2011 to represent them in a federal lawsuit regarding leasing issues. That lawsuit was filed Aug. 10, 2011, and it was dismissed May 13, 2013. The plaintiffs assert they paid the defendants' invoices in full, totaling approximately $200,000.

In February, Huddleston Bolen merged with Dinsmore & Shohl and became the firm’s Huntington branch. In April, the plaintiffs hired attorney Roy D. Baker of Baker Law Offices in Huntington to review business matters, including the work of the attorneys on the federal leasing case.

"Bourdelais instructed Mr. Baker to inform his former counsel at Huddleston Bolen LLP that their responses to the inquiries which he intended to address to them should be directed to Baker Law Offices PLLC, and that it was his further direction that all communications between his five former attorneys and Baker Law Offices PLLC should be in writing," the complaint states.

Baker wrote each of the five attorneys on April 20 asking specific questions that had been drafted on behalf of Bourdelais.

On May 20, Brian S. Sullivan of Dinsmore responded by providing 12 boxes of documents "limited almost exclusively to expert witness reports and depositions, and communications with expert witnesses" and by refusing to provide the balance of the requested information, according to the complaint.

"Until we understand from you what this is all about, we will not provide some of the information you seek," Sullivan wrote in his letter of response.

The next day, Baker replied to Sullivan in an email to seek Sullivan’s "clarification of certain positions," but neither he nor the five attorneys have responded. Three subsequent letters also were sent to the attorneys, the complaint states.

Included in those letters is a correspondence with Renee Frymyer of the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel saying "a former client of a law firm does not have to provide any reason whatsoever to the law firm when requesting a complete copy of their file from the law firm since the file is the legal property of the client."

The plaintiffs are seeking the full and complete original of their files from the five attorneys. They also seek the return of the approximately $200,000 in attorney fees from the previously dismissed federal suit as well as attorney fees and court costs related to this complaint. In addition, they seek compensatory and punitive damages, contractual damages, damages for annoyance, aggravation and inconvenience as well as sanctions against the defendants for refusing to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct. Baker is representing the plaintiffs in this case.

Last month, Sullivan commented after the suit originally was filed.

“"We are disappointed that our former client has chosen to file a lawsuit against the firm,” Sullivan, who works in Dinsmore's Cincinnati office, said in June. “This lawsuit is a miscommunication over the return of a file and we are confident in the way in which the firm acted."

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge F. Jane Hustead.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 15-C-431

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