Man sues water contamination litigation attorneys for breach of fiduciary duty

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 10, 2018

CHARLESTON — A man is suing three attorneys who worked on the water contamination litigation, claiming the attorneys breached their duty when they settled the litigation.

Richard Gravely filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court against Anthony Majestro, Marvin W. Masters and Benjamin L. Bailey.

Gravely claims the attorneys owed him a duty to act in his best interest after Judge Alan D. Moats appointed them to serve as co-lead counsel in the water contamination litigation.

The defendants breached their fiduciary duty to act in Gravely's best interest by failing to provide information to him regarding settlement offers and the settlement itself.

Gravely claims the defendants failed to notify him of the settlement or the offers, which caused him to not receive any of the $151 million dollar settlement.

Gravely is seeking compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest.

The 2014 chemical spill affected more than 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties.

The class-action lawsuit alleged West Virginia American Water did not adequately prepare for or respond to the chemical spill and that Eastman Chemical, the maker of the chemical MCHM, did not properly warn Freedom Industries of the dangers of its chemical or take any action when officials learned the Freedom facility along the Elk River in Charleston was in disrepair.

WVAW and Eastman both deny any liability and blame the crisis on Freedom Industries.

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver signed a final order in June that proved for attorneys to split more than $22 million in fees and about 200,000 checks that totaled more than $73 million were mailed out to victims.

The total claims filed in the class action totaled more $83.6 million, meaning the settlements were lowered from approximately a $550 flat payment to $482.

Copenhaver also lowered the amount assessed in attorney fees from 30 percent to 25 percent and finally to 22 percent.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 18-C-1249

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