Lawyers respond to $15M Davenport suit

Davenport & Co., headquartered in downtown's James Center, is suing several attorneys and law firms for $15 million.Photo by Evelyn Rupert.

Davenport & Co., headquartered in downtown’s James Center, is suing several attorneys and law firms for $15 million. Photo by Evelyn Rupert.

Two attorneys and a trio of law firms have fired back against one of Richmond’s oldest financial firms, arguing that a $15 million lawsuit against them should be tossed out.

Local attorney Douglas Palais and Charlottesville attorney Frederick Payne are among the defendants calling for the dismissal of Davenport & Co.’s claims of malicious prosecution, fraud and other allegations stemming from a drawn-out, but previously settled, dispute in rural Virginia.

Davenport’s case was filed on Dec. 31 in Richmond Circuit Court. It argued that the defendants knowingly made false claims against it during a well-publicized legal battle with Fluvanna County over a bond offering.

That original case between Fluvanna and Davenport was dropped in late 2014 after years of back-and-forth, with the locality publicly apologizing about inaccuracies in the case.

Davenport zeroed in on those inaccuracies in its December suit and puts the blame on Palais and Payne, who prosecuted the county’s case against the firm.

Davenport alleges that the attorneys – and thereby their current and former firms – “orchestrated a scheme to damage Davenport through fraudulent litigation, without regard for the merits of the claims, for the purpose of extorting a lucrative and unwarranted settlement and for personal or political advancement and retribution.”

In their responses filed over the last few weeks, each of the defendants argues that the claims don’t hold water for a variety of reasons.

Payne, who is Fluvanna County’s attorney, argues that he is protected from prosecution in this case under sovereign immunity, which prevents governments from being sued in certain types of cases. His response states that as an agent for the county, he operates under that same protection, and the claims against him should be dropped.

Palais’ attorneys argue in his call for dismissal that each of the counts against him fails to sufficiently support its claims.

The law firms sued in the case are Payne & Hodous, Eckert Seamans and ar Park, previously known as Park Palais LLC. Among some their reasons for dismissal, the responses argue that at least two of Davenport’s six claims should be dismissed because they were filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations.

Payne & Hodous is the firm Payne works with in private practice. Palais was with Eckert Seamans when he represented Fluvanna County during the original lawsuit against Davenport. He joined Park Palais in 2013 and recently joined law firm Vandeventer Black in Richmond.

Davenport claims six counts including malicious abuse of process, malicious prosecution and common law fraud. It claims it suffered damages from the money it spent to defend and resolve the fabricated claims, as well as injury to its reputation, and seeks $15 million in damages.

It is seeking a jury trial.

Davenport is represented in the case by attorney Donald McEachin of McEachin & Gee.

Payne & Hodous is represented by Dennis Quinn and Sarah Conkright of Carr Maloney in Washington, D.C. Conkright declined to comment when reached on Friday.

Eckert Seamans is being represented by two of its in-house attorneys.

Park LLC is represented by Michael Harman of Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman in Glen Allen.

Doug Palais’ counsel on the case is Matthew Lee of Wilson Elser in Northern Virginia.

Those attorneys all either declined to comment or did not return messages by press time.

Frederick Payne is represented by Jim Guynn Jr. and Susan Waddell of Guynn & Dillon in Salem, Virginia.

Waddell said she’s confident the case will be dismissed.

She said a hearing for the case could be scheduled for as soon as May.

“It is my thought and belief that the case will be dismissed at that time,” she said.

Davenport & Co., headquartered in downtown's James Center, is suing several attorneys and law firms for $15 million.Photo by Evelyn Rupert.

Davenport & Co., headquartered in downtown’s James Center, is suing several attorneys and law firms for $15 million. Photo by Evelyn Rupert.

Two attorneys and a trio of law firms have fired back against one of Richmond’s oldest financial firms, arguing that a $15 million lawsuit against them should be tossed out.

Local attorney Douglas Palais and Charlottesville attorney Frederick Payne are among the defendants calling for the dismissal of Davenport & Co.’s claims of malicious prosecution, fraud and other allegations stemming from a drawn-out, but previously settled, dispute in rural Virginia.

Davenport’s case was filed on Dec. 31 in Richmond Circuit Court. It argued that the defendants knowingly made false claims against it during a well-publicized legal battle with Fluvanna County over a bond offering.

That original case between Fluvanna and Davenport was dropped in late 2014 after years of back-and-forth, with the locality publicly apologizing about inaccuracies in the case.

Davenport zeroed in on those inaccuracies in its December suit and puts the blame on Palais and Payne, who prosecuted the county’s case against the firm.

Davenport alleges that the attorneys – and thereby their current and former firms – “orchestrated a scheme to damage Davenport through fraudulent litigation, without regard for the merits of the claims, for the purpose of extorting a lucrative and unwarranted settlement and for personal or political advancement and retribution.”

In their responses filed over the last few weeks, each of the defendants argues that the claims don’t hold water for a variety of reasons.

Payne, who is Fluvanna County’s attorney, argues that he is protected from prosecution in this case under sovereign immunity, which prevents governments from being sued in certain types of cases. His response states that as an agent for the county, he operates under that same protection, and the claims against him should be dropped.

Palais’ attorneys argue in his call for dismissal that each of the counts against him fails to sufficiently support its claims.

The law firms sued in the case are Payne & Hodous, Eckert Seamans and ar Park, previously known as Park Palais LLC. Among some their reasons for dismissal, the responses argue that at least two of Davenport’s six claims should be dismissed because they were filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations.

Payne & Hodous is the firm Payne works with in private practice. Palais was with Eckert Seamans when he represented Fluvanna County during the original lawsuit against Davenport. He joined Park Palais in 2013 and recently joined law firm Vandeventer Black in Richmond.

Davenport claims six counts including malicious abuse of process, malicious prosecution and common law fraud. It claims it suffered damages from the money it spent to defend and resolve the fabricated claims, as well as injury to its reputation, and seeks $15 million in damages.

It is seeking a jury trial.

Davenport is represented in the case by attorney Donald McEachin of McEachin & Gee.

Payne & Hodous is represented by Dennis Quinn and Sarah Conkright of Carr Maloney in Washington, D.C. Conkright declined to comment when reached on Friday.

Eckert Seamans is being represented by two of its in-house attorneys.

Park LLC is represented by Michael Harman of Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman in Glen Allen.

Doug Palais’ counsel on the case is Matthew Lee of Wilson Elser in Northern Virginia.

Those attorneys all either declined to comment or did not return messages by press time.

Frederick Payne is represented by Jim Guynn Jr. and Susan Waddell of Guynn & Dillon in Salem, Virginia.

Waddell said she’s confident the case will be dismissed.

She said a hearing for the case could be scheduled for as soon as May.

“It is my thought and belief that the case will be dismissed at that time,” she said.

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