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Law firm sues adoption agency for failure to pay bills

Published December 19, 2012 9:43 pm

Courts • The Adoption Center of Choice hasn't paid its attorneys $80,000, according to lawsuit.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Utah law firm is suing an American Fork adoption agency for failure to pay bills for work on several contested placements.

Attorneys with Wood Balmforth of Salt Lake City said in a complaint filed Tuesday that The Adoption Center of Choice owes the firm $80,229 in fees and interest for work on several adoptions and general accounting services. The agency has failed to make good on those payments despite repeated demands for payment and thus is in breach of contract, according to the court filing.

The cases include paternity actions brought by Bobby Nevares of Colorado and Christopher Carlton of Pennsylvania and cases identified as "In Re Baby L (Lussier) and "Olsen v. ACC."

The law firm entered into a written contract to represent the agency in the Nevares case in December 2010, an agreement negotiated between agency owner James Webb and attorney Larry Jenkins, who has since moved to another firm but continues to represent the center — most recently in a case involving a married father's who child was placed for adoption through the agency without his knowledge or consent.

In the Nevares case, the law firm represented both the agency and the birth mother but fees were charged only to The Adoption Center of Choice. In a 2010 letter memorializing the agreement, Jenkins noted, "Our firm is a small one, and we would appreciate prompt payment at that time."

The law firm had oral agreements for its work in the subsequent cases, according to the filing.

Jenkins said Wednesday he had not seen the complaint and, because of the conflict of interest, would not be representing the adoption agency in the matter. Nancy Pomeroy at The Adoption Center said the agency had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment on it.

Nevares filed a paternity action in October 2010 after learning his girlfriend had placed their son for adoption in Utah, but a trial court judge ruled he had not complied with his own state's rules governing unmarried fathers and thus had no standing in Utah.

Carlton's girlfriend disappeared when she was seven months pregnant. Carlton learned in June 2010 she had given birth to what the girlfriend said was a baby boy. She later told him the infant had died. She initially refused to tell Carlton what had happened to the baby or where it was buried but, under pressure from a judge, eventually told him she had given birth and placed the baby for adoption in Utah through the Adoption Center of Choice. Carlton subsequently learned the child was actually a girl.

He has waged a so-far unsuccessful fight in Utah to get his child back and currently has an appeal pending before the Utah Supreme Court over his daughter's adoption.

brooke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Brooke4Trib