Judge recommends mediation between mall, yogurt business.

At a pretrial hearing in a lawsuit filed by the Charleston Town Center against a West Virginia yogurt business, a Kanawha County judge on Thursday recommended mediation for the two sides and received a letter indicating bankruptcy proceedings underway for a longtime state legislator. The Town Center filed the lawsuit last year against Sweet Frog of Charleston, Cory Jessee, Richard Jessee, Charles Sellers, James Garcia, WV Fro Yo, and two West Virginia delegates, Patrick Lane and Ronald Walters, both R-Kanawha. Lane and Walters are members of WV Fro Yo.

In its lawsuit, the mall alleged the frozen yogurt business along with their members breached their lease agreement by not paying rent for its mall location.

In the lawsuit, the mall said Sweet Frog leased the space for a six-year period and agreed to pay $3,212 per month rent for the first two years. It said the mall suffered more than $46,000 in damages plus attorneys fees at the time the lawsuit was filed.

Attorneys explained Sweet Frog, a Virginia business, moved into the mall at first but WV Fro Yo later bought the location. The yogurt business is no longer in the mall.

Sweet Frog of Charleston later reached a settlement, agreeing to pay $80,000 to the Town Center. Sweet Frog wants WV Fro Yo to pay it the money it had to pay the mall in the settlement.

Attorneys appeared Thursday for a pretrial hearing before Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, who told parties to try and mediate the case. She told attorneys to let her know by May 8 if the case has been resolved. If not, she will rule on the pending motions.

Sweet Frog of Charleston previously filed a motion asking the court to enter judgment against WV Fro Yo, Lane and Walters. The motion said Sweet Frog was forced to defend its interests and had to file a cross claim against WV Fro Yo.

Attorneys also presented Tabit a letter from Walters’ attorney, Stephen Swisher. It said Walters has contacted a local attorney and has paid the filing fee to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The letter said he did not need to attend the pretrial hearing because of the bankruptcy, which he said should be filed within the next 30 days.

When reached by phone Friday, Walters did not wish to comment on the bankruptcy.

“This was a business investment that unfortunately did not pan out as I had hoped,” his fellow delegate, Lane, said over the phone Friday. “I am attempting to resolve the outstanding claims in an amicable fashion by negotiating with all parties. It’s unfortunate that Ron is intending to file bankruptcy in the issue. It confuses things and may prevent a full settlement but hopefully, the process will work itself through and parties whole as possible.”

Walters, Lane and WV Fro Yo also face another lawsuit filed last year by BB&T, where the bank argues they breached their contract by loaning $390,000 and failing to make the payments when they were due. The lawsuit alleged that as of April 2014, Fro Yo, Walters and Lane were responsible for $372,121.79 plus interest.


By Andrea Lannom, Legal affairs writer
April, 2015


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