Hulsey prevails in decade-old defamation suit

L&L Service’s stationary was found between workers’ identity cards after they were split open following a 2004 city raid.

A decade-old defamation case continues to linger in Charleston County’s courts, but the tides have turned with the parties involved.

A Charleston County jury recently found for Charleston lawyer Paul Hulsey in a 2006 lawsuit brought by Lawton Limehouse Sr., who sued Hulsey for his public criticism of Limehouse’s L&L Services staffing business. Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman presided.

In April 2004, Hulsey filed a lawsuit against L&L Services, a staffing agency that rented several homes in North Charleston. The city previously raided these homes and discovered overcrowding and inadequate heating and plumbing.

Hulsey, who represented six former L&L employees, told The Post and Courier that L&L “created a perfect racketeering enterprise, just like (fictional HBO mobster) Tony Soprano” and that this business set “the community back 150 years.”

Hulsey eventually settled the lawsuit against L&L for $20,000, but he later was sued himself for defamation because of those comments.

The case then took an odd twist: When the legal proceeding was moved from federal court to state court, a circuit judge found Hulsey in default for missing a deadline to respond.

Hulsey never had a chance to defend himself, and separate trials were held in Charleston County years ago only to establish damages. Hulsey was hit with a $7.4 million judgment for Lawton Limehouse Sr. and with a $3.6 million judgment for the son, Lawton Limehouse Jr. In 2011, the S.C. Court of Appeals upheld those verdicts, but the S.C. Supreme Court set aside those awards and ordered the case back to circuit court.

The first case was tried in late March. A separate but related case pitting Hulsey against Lawton Limehouse Jr. is still pending, but no trial date has been set.

Lawton Limehouse Sr. filed a court motion last month asking that Hulsey’s attorneys not be permitted to resume deposing him in the case. The motion noted that Limehouse is diabetic and during his previous depositions he “experienced a serious fluctuation in his blood sugar due to the argumentative, annoying and oppressive questioning.”

Jamie Hood, an attorney for Hulsey, said he was pleased with the jury’s decision. Limehouse could appeal, and his attorney, Frank Cisa, did not return messages left this week.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.