Judge to decide damages against law firm

By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

A special judge will decide later this month how much a West Point law firm has to pay a former client for failing to meet a deadline that cost her a workman’s compensation claim.

In 2014, Cedar Bluff resident Lori Chandler originally sued Turner and Associates, Angela Turner Ford, the late Bennie Turner and Carolyn Karriem claiming they were negligent as a firm and individually for the handling of her claim against her employer Cooper Tire in Tupelo.

She said that after she was injured at Cooper Tire in early 2008, she retained the firm to handle the case. In her original lawsuit, she said the law firm even told her in 2013 that Cooper Tire had offered $100,000 to settle and that she saw paperwork prepared to accept the offer.

Only later did she discover from Cooper Tire that Turner and Associates never actually filed the claim within the two-year time limit, thus barring her from recovering any workman’s compensation payments.

She originally sued the firm for $250,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Retired Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey was appointed to oversee the case after the three Circuit judges over Clay County recused themselves because the late Bennie Turner and Angela Ford were members of the Legislature. The case ran through several delays and last year, had another one when Lackey died.

Retired Senior Judge Larry Roberts took over the case.

In October, he granted Chandler’s motion for summary judgement on the question of liability, ruling the law firm and the individuals had begun a representation of Chandler, despite claims that it hadn’t and that it was not liable to Chandler. In his ruling, the judge wrote, “Turner claims no attorney-client relationship existed between Turner and the Plaintiff. and that Carolyn Turner Karriem had no authority nor power to bind turner as the attorney for the Plaintiff. From the answers, depositions, exhibits and existing authorities, the Court finds this argument disingenuous.”

Carolyn Turner Karriem also is the late Bennie Turner’s daughter and Angela Turner Ford’s sister. She was the paralegal at the firm who signed Chandler up as a client.

Roberts did not rule on Chandler’s request for at least $100,000 in compensatory damages or on punitive damages.

In February, the two sides agreed to a non-jury trial on damages on June 24.

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