RICHMOND, VA. – American International Group conspired with its law firm, McGuireWoods, to defame a Richmond attorney to try to avoid public embarrassment while a McGuireWoods lawyer sought a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, attorney Christopher Spencer claims in Federal Court.
Spencer claims the defendants conspired to defame him and abused the legal process. He says they did this by falsely blaming him for mishandling a major personal injury appeal while McGuireWoods was facing $90 million in malpractice claims.
“This case is about two men who used some of the largest insurance companies in America and abused the process of the court to trash the good name of (a) reputable lawyer,” Spencer states in his federal lawsuit. “James Maddiona, a top official with one of the largest insurance groups in the world, AIG, and Patrick Regan, a Washington attorney, conspired to help AIG’s longtime law firm avoid public embarrassment and to promote one of that firm’s lawyer’s to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals – all at Spencer’s expense.
“AIG had hired McGuireWoods LLP (‘McGuireWoods’) and Earle Duncan Getchell Jr. to handle post-trial motions and to prosecute an appeal in a major personal injury case. Getchell and McGuireWoods certified that all the trial transcripts had been filed. The Virginia Supreme Court later found that certification was false. The appeal was dismissed as a result.
“AIG knew who was to blame. After all, the only reason Getchell and were (sic) in the case was so that they could handle the post-trial motions and the appeal. In fact, John S. Barr, inside ‘general counsel’ of McGuireWoods, actually admitted that Getchell and McGuireWoods were responsible. But McGuireWoods and Getchell needed a favor. As of 2005, they were looking at a total of Ninety Million Dollars ($90,000,000) in claims for malpractice against the firm’s vaunted appellate team and Getchell. The law firm did not want this publicized. Getchell did not want these matters to interfere with his desire for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge.
“Maddiona and Regan joined with Barr, Getchell, McGuireWoods and others in a scheme that would make McGuireWoods and Getchell look good by making Spencer look bad. They decided to make Spencer the fall guy for Getchell’s and McGuireWoods’ mistake and falsely claim that the dismissal was Spencer’s fault and his alone.
“They participated in a public relations campaign based entirely upon false statements. They abused the process of the courts. They did these things to help McGuireWoods and Getchell, to gratify their own feelings and to hurt Spencer.”
The alleged defamation came during the appeal of an $8.3 million personal injury award to Jessica Grigg, who was injured at Wintergreen Resort, a ski area, the complaint states.
President Bush nominated Getchell for a seat on the 4th Circuit on Sept. 6, 2007, despite opposition from Virginia Sen. James Webb and Sen. John Warner’s refusal to endorse Getchell, the complaint states.
“In late September 2007 a reporter from the Virginian-Pilot learned that Getchell had been involved in the dismissal of the Grigg appeal. He started working on a story that would report on Getchell’s responsibility and raise questions about his fitness for the bench. This was the nightmare that Getchell and McGuireWoods had feared,” the complaint states.
“The reporter had called the White House for comment. The White House had been told about the AIG complaint by Getchell; the White House then revealed the existence of the AIG complaint to the reporter. The reporter checked online and found out that Regan had filed the AIG complaint. He called Regan for comment. Regan, acting for Maddiona and AIG, and in conspiracy with Barr, Getchell, McGuireWoods and others, undertook to deflect the finger of blame away from Getchell and McGuireWoods and toward Spencer.”
The complaint then lists 33 allegedly false and malicious charges. Spencer says Regan’s defamatory statements were printed in the Virginian-Pilot and republished in the National Law Journal.
Spencer demands $15 million, plus punitive damages, for malicious defamation, abuse of process and conspiracy.
Here are the defendants: American International Group, AIG Domestic Claims Inc., National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, American Home Assurance Company, James Maddiona, Patrick Regan, and Regan Zambri & Long PLLC.
Spencer is represented by O’Hagan Spencer.