MOUNDSVILLE – A Wheeling attorney has been sued for legal malpractice after she allegedly mishandled a woman’s defense in a lawsuit filed by the father of her child.
Karen Coffield filed her complaint May 31 against Elgine McArdle in Marshall Circuit Court. McArdle also is the chairwoman of the Ohio County Republican Party.
Coffield says she retained McArdle as her attorney in October 2013 shortly after the father of her daughter filed a pro se civil action against her in Marshall Circuit Court. Coffield says she provided McArdle with a copy of a Facebook post made by the father that “unequivocally showed that the father’s civil action was time barred by the applicable statute of limitations.”
On Oct. 24, 2013, McArdle “filed a poorly drafted motion to dismiss and recklessly failed to raise the issue of the civil action being time barred by the applicable statute of limitations,” the complaint states. “Approximately one year later, defendant filed a supplemental memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss. Again, there was no mention of the application statute of limitations.”
The motion to dismiss was denied. Years later, McArdle filed a motion for summary judgment that against didn’t mention the applicable statute of limitations. That motion for summary judgment also was denied. Coffield says she paid McArdle fees and expenses.
Coffield also says McArdle worked on the case for four years but “failed to take the deposition of the father which would have unequivocally showed that the father’s civil action was time barred by the applicable statute of limitations.”
In October 2017, Coffield says McArdle wrongfully claimed that “communication had broken down” between them, and McArdle filed a motion to withdraw. Coffield says she was forced to retain new counsel. To date, Coffield says she has paid more than $50,000 in attorney fees and court costs.
Coffield says her new attorney took the deposition of the father and filed a motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations. But that was denied as well, with the court saying Coffield “slumbered on her rights to have the case dismissed pursuant to the statute of limitations.”
Coffield says it was McArdle who slumbered.
“Assuming plaintiff’s new counsel is permitted to raise the statute of limitations defense at trial, plaintiff still has been damaged by the failure of defendant to timely raise the issue, and such damages of the plaintiff include increased attorneys fees and costs and non-economic damages,” the complaint states. “In other words, had defendant properly raised the statute of limitations defense when defendant filed the motion to dismiss on or before October 24, 2013, plaintiff would not have incurred tens of thousands of dollars in fees and expenses.”
Coffield says McArdle “failed to act as a reasonably prudent lawyer” and didn’t provide services in “a competent manner.” She seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs.
McArdle did not return calls seeking comment.
In 2011, McArdle’s daughter filed a domestic violence petition against her that she later rescinded, according to published reports.
The incident apparently occurred at a Republican Party meeting, according to a BigLeaguePolitics.com report. The story also says McArdle and the daughter both confirmed the incident. McArdle said she “smacked (her) daughter in the mouth” for being a “smartass.”
The story also claims there were witnesses and that the assault “was widely known by leaders in the Republican Party in West Virginia.”
McArdle was one of five candidates last fall for a vacancy on the bench for the state’s First Circuit created by the resignation of Judge James P. Mazzone, who became a federal magistrate. The First Circuit consists of Ohio, Brooke and Hancock counties. Michael J. Olejasz eventually was appointed to that seat.
In her case against McArdle, Coffield is being represented by Paul J. Harris of Harris Law Offices in Wheeling. The case has yet to be assigned to a circuit judge.