'King of Small Torts' Carper inspired by high school trip to courthouse

By John Breslin | Feb 5, 2019

Kanawha County Courthouse   Wikipedia/pubdog

Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series of profiles of West Virginia attorneys.

CHARLESTON — Charleston attorney W. Kent Carper relishes being called the "King of Small Torts," a nod to the legendary lawyer known for the very large ones, Melvin Belli.

Carper, a founding partner at Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler, says he enjoys handing the smaller cases– ones that many lawyers will not touch because they involved a lot of work for not much money.

But, Carper told The West Virginia Record, when a company is contesting liability, these are not small losses to the person harmed.


Carper  

A former prosecutor, during which time he handled murder and white-collar-crime cases, Carper helped found the firm in 1989. His biography on the law firm's website states he is a former police chief of Charleston.

The law was something he was almost destined to follow.

"My great-grandfather used to say that I would be either a lawyer or a preacher," Carper said. "I was fascinated by the law."

The deal was sealed when Carper was a student at Stonewall Jackson High School and his civics class took a trip to the Kanawha County Courthouse.

He heard renowned prosecutor and later Kanawha County judge Patrick Casey deliver a closing argument and was hooked. 

"I remembered that argument and used the exact same one years later," Carper said.

A graduate of West Virginia State University and Ohio Northern University College of Law, Carper, who also serves as president of the Kanawha County Commission, remembers one case he was delighted to win.

"It was a medical malpractice case in a small county, and the defense was refusing to pay (for) anything ... the experts were pulling up in limousines," Carper said. "But the result, the figure, changed the client's life."

The biggest challenge Carper said he faces in these times is the "animus, almost hatred" directed against the legal system, one that he believes is the result of a calculated, concerted campaign over some years that leads juries to believe that all verdicts for the plaintiffs are "jumped up."

"Eighty percent of the time you are trying to prove to the jury you are honest," Carper said.

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Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC West Virginia State University

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