Wheeling jury resolves lawsuit between former associates - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Wheeling jury resolves lawsuit between former associates

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One-time business partners-turned-courtroom-combatants walked away from a six-day trial empty-handed after a federal jury in Wheeling found no reason to award damages to either side in the dispute.

Jo Lynn Kraina, with partners Shelley Reed and Misty Shannon, initially sued their former business associates, including Dan Dickerson, James Breckinridge and Andrew Fellows, claiming they hijacked confidential reports, contacts and studies when they walked away from her American Heartland Port in 2009 to form their own company, American Port Holdings.

Dickerson was listed as chief executive officer of American Port, Fellows as its chief financial officer and Breckinridge, chief of operations and legal affairs.

Prior to forming American Heartland Port, Kraina had been a consultant to Tantara Communications LLC on an inland waterway port project, but severed her ties to that company when it failed to pay her. She said she continued to work on a business plan which was presented to the West Virginia Public Port Authority. Soon after, Kraina said she began working with Dickerson, Fellows and Breckinridge to “actually begin planning and construction of the port itself.”

Kraina credits herself, Reed and Shannon with developing the concept of an inland, intermodal port on the Ohio River together with an operational business plan and lining up more than $150 million in investor funding.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011, had claimed that after the men left American Heartland Port, they represented themselves as the architects of the project to investors from Abu Dhabi and India and to ArcelorMittal, which had been assessing buyers and end uses for some 1,300 acres in Weirton it no longer needs for steel operations.

Dickerson, Fellows and Breckinridge had countered with claims Kraina defamed them in a letter to the editor.

Neither side was able to convince the jury to find fault or award damages, and with the litigation out of the way local leaders say the path is clear for ArcelorMittal to proceed with its land sale.

“It clears the way for other interested properties,” said Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle. “I’m excited about the interest in those properties that (the court’s disposition) of the lawsuit generated. There have been a number of inquiries made about availability of those properties, and people (are alluding) to the economic development potential in the Weirton region that the availability of those properties creates.”