Beaumont attorneys want W. Va. malpractice case against them severed

The SE Texas Record Dec. 9, 2009, 11:21am

WHEELING, W. Va. – Beaumont lawyers who packaged 15 CSX Transportation workers together as identical injury victims for litigation in West Virginia are now protesting that the same 15 should not be packaged together as identical victims of legal malpractice.

Beaumont's Provost Umphrey Law Firm and five individual lawyers want U. S. District Judge Frederick Stamp of Wheeling, W. Va., to split a lawsuit against them into 15 suits.

"Plaintiffs in the instant action are misjoined," Michael Garrison of Morgantown, W. Va., wrote for Provost Umphrey in a Nov. 17 motion to sever.

The railroad workers allege that the lawyers obtained little or no value from their claims that their feet and legs were injured by walking on ballasts.

Their lawyers, Donald Tennant Jr. and Jay McCamic of Wheeling, opposed the motion to sever on Dec. 2.

Tennant wrote that Provost Umphrey and the others "had each plaintiff's lower extremity case consolidated into one mass piece of litigation wherein five plaintiffs would be arbitrarily selected for a joint trial in West Virginia state court."

He wrote that his clients would likely present a single expert on ballasts and a single expert on legal malpractice.

His clients, all from North Carolina, sued their former lawyers in June.

According to the complaint, the attorneys consolidated suits from various states in Marshall County circuit court at Moundsville, W. Va.

The rail workers seek to recover the true value of their injury claims, additional legal fees and damages for inconvenience and distress.

Garrison, James Walls and Kelly Kimble of Spilman Thomas and Battle, represent lawyers Rodney Barnwell, Matthew Matheny, Matthew Willis and David Bernsen along with Provost Umphrey.

Another defendant, Edward Cook of Georgia, hired lawyers from his state who on Nov. 24 joined Garrison's motion to sever.

Another defendant, Donald Ruzicka, has not responded to the suit.

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