Phelps Dunbar sues West Virginia gubernatorial candidate's company seeking $400K in unpaid legal fees

By Chris Dickerson and Kyla Asbury | Dec 8, 2015

Jim Justice  

NEW ORLEANS – Another in a string of lawsuits has been filed against one of West Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice’s companies for allegedly failing to pay more than $400,000 in legal fees.

Phelps Dunbar LLP is suing James C. Justice Companies Inc. (JJC) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana alleging JJC owes $409,535.35 in legal fees for services rendered since 2011, according to a complaint filed Dec. 7 in federal court.

On Dec. 20, 2011, JJC retained Phelps to serve as counsel to defend it in a lawsuit in federal court in Louisiana, and Phelps made an appearance on behalf of JJC when the law firm filed its answer to the complaint in the lawsuit on Jan. 4, 2012.

Phelps claims the litigation progressed for a number of years with the firm continuing its representation of JJC throughout the litigation and, as part of its representation, Phelps engaged in extensive discovery, protracted motion practice and, eventually, briefing multiple appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

In addition and while the lawsuit was pending, a second lawsuit was consolidated with the lawsuit involving one of JJC’s subsidiaries and Phelps invoiced JJC for Phelps’ fees representing the subsidiary against the allegations in the consolidated lawsuit, according to the suit.

Phelps claims on Feb. 29, 2012, it issued an invoice in the amount of $4,873.56; on June 28, 2012, it issued an invoice in the amount of $1,218.07; and on Feb. 28, 2013, Phelps issued an invoice in the amount of $7,455.59. JJC paid the invoices in full and without objection on June 21, 2013.

The plaintiff continued to regularly invoice JJC for its fees and costs that the law firm incurred defending JJC in the lawsuit, however, JJC failed to remit payment to Phelps for services rendered and reflected on the invoices, according to the suit. In total, JJC is allegedly indebted to Phelps in the amount o $409,535.35.

Phelps claims JJC is liable for the fees and is in breach of its contract with the law firm by failing to pay the legal fees.

Phelps is seeking a judgment in favor of the law firm and an award of all legal and/or equitable relief, including interest and attorneys’ fees. The law firm is being represented by attorneys Harry Rosenberg and Tessa Vorhaben.

Justice’s company has been involved in multiple lawsuits during the last few years. In October, a lawsuit was filed against Greenbrier Hotel in federal court in Virginia for failing to pay human resources staffing services.

Previously, Aspen Corp. sued the Greenbrier for $1.275 million, saying it had failed to pay for work performed prior to the inaugural PGA Greenbrier Classic tournament. An architect who oversaw the restoration of the Greenbrier’s Old White Course for the PGA event also sued for $200,000.

Earlier this year, two of Justice’s coal companies were sued for $2 million for not paying landowners for coal that was mined. In 2013, seven of his companies were sued for $1.1 million in unpaid invoices. In 2011, Delta Air Lines sued the Greenbrier for $4 million over failure to meet guaranteed minimum amounts in return for providing flights to the local airport.

Critics say Justice companies also have a reputation for not paying fines or taxes, and they claim Justice uses his business and political connections to secure special deals and tax breaks for his companies.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana case number: 2:15-cv-06522

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