When the Upper Big Branch Mine exploded in 2010 and stock market prices for Massey Energy shares plummeted, Charleston’s James Humphreys & Associates filed a class action suit on behalf of Massey shareholders, arguing they should be compensated for financial losses. But Massey prices quickly shot back up and the company was sold for a substantial profit.

Humphreys wanted to have it both ways, but suing a company on behalf of investors whose shares had increased in value was pushing it.

Suing a law firm on behalf of clients who've suffered financial losses and blame the law firm is a different matter. Humphreys takes a dim view of that. He wants no part of it, perhaps because his firm is the one being sued.

Humphreys appealed a recent federal bankruptcy court ruling that remanded part of a malpractice case against him and his firm back to Kanawha County.

Judge Frank W. Volk remanded back to Kanawha Circuit Court only the case against Humphreys individually, postponing the disposition of the case against the firm pending the outcome of the bankruptcy proceedings.

Humphreys doesn't like the idea of being sued individually and held personally responsible for his role in the bungling of a flood damage case, so he filed a claim in bankruptcy court against his own firm to make it alone liable for the $13.5 million claim.

His firm, meanwhile, has appealed Volk’s decision and sought a stay in the Kanawha County case.

“Every time that we flip the rock and expose him to sunlight, he wants to crawl back under another rock,” says Rod Jackson, who represents the elderly couple in the malpractice case – as well as a class of former Humphreys clients who claim the firm mishandled their mass tort asbestos case.

“Now, this appeal is him just looking for another rock, trying to delay. But there are only so many rocks. He’ll run out of them soon.”

Try to have it both ways and you could eventually have neither.




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