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Gainesville lawyer, firm sued by former client, claiming breach of contract

A man who lost his legs in a workplace incident has filed a lawsuit against his former attorney, alleging that the lawyer did not turn over the man’s files after he hired new counsel, according to court documents.

Zach and Jennifer Johnson filed a lawsuit Monday, Dec. 19, against Michael Weaver Jr. and the Weaver Law Firm in Hall County Superior Court.

Attorney Matt Cook said his client, Zach Johnson, was working for the city of Toccoa when his legs were entrapped Dec. 2 in a baler machine. The attorney said Zach Johnson lost both legs below the knee and is still hospitalized.

According to the lawsuit, the Johnsons originally hired Michael Weaver Jr. and the Weaver Law Firm to represent them and signed a contract.

The lawsuit claimed that someone at the law firm attended a site inspection of the incident scene and took photos and videos of the baler machine.

After the inspection, the Johnsons retained other counsel.

The Johnsons’ new counsel reached out to Weaver to withdraw from the case and return their files, assuring that they would be compensated for their brief representation, according to the lawsuit.

“Without responding to the Dec. 12 correspondence, defendant Weaver directly contacted plaintiff Jennifer Johnson via text to discuss his prior representation of (the) plaintiffs, but he did not offer a copy of (the) plaintiffs’ file,” according to the lawsuit.

Weaver said in an email that he had seen a copy of the complaint.

“We deny the allegations contained within it, but cannot comment further at this time due to the pending litigation,” Weaver wrote in an email.

The lawsuit claimed the Johnsons’ lawyers reached out again on Dec. 14 and 16 to get the files ahead of a Dec. 20 site inspection of the baler machine.

The lawsuit stated that the photos and videos  “are essential to plaintiffs and to their experts so that they can review those photographs and inspect the subject machine prior to attending any inspection.”

“The ethical rules are clear,” Cook said. “The law is clear. The client owns the file.”

Cook said Judge Michelle Hall ruled Tuesday after a hearing that Weaver has to provide the file and any communications related to this case.

The lawsuit claimed the defendants were liable for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and intentional withholding of plaintiffs’ property. The case is seeking “compensatory, nominal and punitive damages.”

Cook said he is still “pursuing all remedies.”