OTTAWA — A civil lawsuit alleging intentional misconduct, malicious representation of a client and assorted conflicts of interest on the part of two Putnam County attorneys was filed Friday in Putnam County Common Pleas Court.
The suit was filed against attorneys William Wildenhaus and Kurt Sahloff, of Ottawa, on behalf of plaintiffs Steven, Yvonne and Brent Buettner, along with a legal guardian for Emily Buettner, a minor, all of whom reside at 8145 Robinson Road, Fort Jennings.
Wildenhaus and Sahloff are partners in the Leopold, Wildenhaus, Sahloff & Welch law firm, located in Ottawa.
A jury trial has been requested by the plaintiffs to determine compensatory and punitive damages.
Among the allegations outlined in the lawsuit is the contention that Wildenhaus and Sahloff acted “intentionally and maliciously” in misrepresenting the expressed desires of their former client, rural Fort Jennings resident Dorothy Davis, who died March 1, 2016, at the age of 97. Davis never married and had no children.
Steven Buettner, the principal plaintiff in the suit, was a neighbor of Davis and, beginning around 2000, was a “tenant farmer” on the Davis farm. Buettner and his family also provided “daily care and assistance” to Davis, according to language contained in the suit.
The lawsuit claims a will executed by Davis in 2001 included a provision that Buettner had the option to purchase the Davis farmland for 50 cents on the dollar. Another will was drafted for Davis by Wildenhaus in the summer of 2013, at which time the Fort Jennings woman further outlined her wishes concerning her assets, including a provision that Buettner have the first option to purchase Davis’ real estate at a price of $1,000 per acre, the plaintiffs allege.
But the lawsuit claims Wildenhaus and Sahloff “intentionally and maliciously failed to sign the assestation clause and act as witnesses to the 2013 will,” rendering the document invalid.
The suit further alleges Wildenhaus acted “under a conflict of interest” in forming a limited liability company after Davis entered a nursing home in May 2015. According to the plaintiffs, the attorney prepared a quit claim deed to the Davis property “without the consent of Ms. Davis” and transferred the property into the newly formed limited liability company “expressly contrary to Ms. Davis’ 2001 will, 2015 will, a 2005 contract and in direct contradiction of Ms. Davis’ expressed intentions that Mr. Buettner farm and eventually own all of the property.”
In its conclusion, the lawsuit — filed for the plaintiffs by Lee R. Schroeder of Schroeder Law LCC of Columbus Grove — claims “intentional misconduct” on Wildenhaus’ part in transferring property to the limited liability company, and further alleges Wildenhaus and Sahloff “intentionally interfered” with the plaintiffs’ expectations that they would inherit Davis’ property.
Steven Buettner claims Wildenhaus and Sahloff “entered into a corrupt combination and unlawful association in which they agreed to work in concert” in failing to sign Davis’ will in 2013.
Monetary damages suffered by the plaintiffs was listed as being in excess of $125,000.
A spokeswoman at the Leopold, Wildenhaus, Sahloff & Welch law firm on Friday afternoon said Wildenhaus and Sahloff “don’t have any comment at this time” surrounding the lawsuit.