Judge Bob Wortham has some reading to do over the Thanksgiving weekend.
A veteran legal mind in Jefferson County who has spent time as both an U.S. attorney and as a judge in the county’s 58th District Civil Court, Wortham has to consider whether or not to dismiss a lawsuit brought forth by Ryan and Tara McLeod, who are attempting to sever ties with Dan Warren and his Guardian Angel Service Dog company after what’s been a hellish year for the family.
The McLeods bought a diabetic alert dog for their son, Racer, 4, who has juvenile diabetes.
“The court is taking its time to consider both sides’ arguments, and everything that has been submitted to the court will be read,” Wortham said Monday, Nov. 19, after an initial hearing on a motion from Warren to either dismiss the lawsuit or have it moved to Virginia, where he and his company are located.
In the lawsuit brought forward by the McLeods, they are asking that they be released from their contract with Warren’s company, which has since changed names, and sever all ties. As part of the contract, the McLeods are entitled to up to two years of continued training for their dog; however, the family has been steadfast that it will use its own funds to train the dog so they can extricate themselves from the mess that has ensued with Warren.
The issue at hand is whether or not Warren is owed money the McLeods raised back in February to purchase a $19,000 diabetic alert dog from Warren’s company. The two sides, who began their relationship roughly one year ago, each see it differently. The McLeods contend, and their evidence suggests, that the only thing agreed upon between the two sides was the purchase price of the dog, and there was never a mention of how the fundraising should be conducted or where any excess funds should be directed.
In fact, an e-mail dated Feb. 15 of this year presented by the McLeods’ attorney, John Werner, showed Warren explaining to the McLeods that the family had an outstanding balance of only $20 after a $7,120 payment. Because of the success of the family’s fundraising campaign, Warren asked if the family would “mind giving me a day or so to do something nice” for them and then he would post it on his Facebook page.
Locally, Warren is being represented by Brian Little. Both attorneys were present at the 30-minute hearing Monday afternoon and shared their sides of the ongoing dispute.
According to Werner and the McLeods, Warren’s sunny and congratulatory disposition changed in May after he learned through a Facebook posting that the McLeods raised more than $60,000 at the February fundraiser to go toward the purchase of the dog and, they say, Racer’s medical bills. When the McLeods signed a contract with Warren – after the fundraising had been completed – there was still no mention of fundraising dollars going back to Warren’s company.
Wortham repeatedly asked Little if there was anything in the contract that outlined fundraising and Little responded, “Not to my knowledge.”
In June, one month after the contract was signed by the McLeods, they received a letter from Warren’s attorney in Virginia, John Anderson, demanding that the extra money they raised be sent to Warren and his company since, they claim, the McLeods used Warren’s tax ID number for donation purposes. The McLeods have been adamant they never used Warren’s tax ID.
While Warren isn’t returning messages left for him by The Examiner, according to one of his former clients who felt the wrath of Warren first hand, he might have more than just an inquisitive reporter and a civil courtroom in Beaumont to answer to.
Melina Colon, a 34-year-old single mother of an 11-year-old boy with diabetes, was one of dozens of Warren supporters who spoke out against the McLeods in online forums last July when The Examiner initially brought the story to light.
“He called me and asked me to speak up for him and support him against their claims,” said Colon via telephone from her home in Florida. Colon, like many others – most who didn’t have a dog at that time – were quick to attack the McLeods and staunchly defended Warren, who’s real name is Charles Daniel Warren Jr., on his company’s Facebook page.
But a few months later when Warren discovered that Colon was going to raise possibly $100,000 for her son and another family’s dog, he wanted to come down to Florida and help with the fundraising himself. And Colon said his demeanor toward her changed when she asked about the fundraising and wanted a contract.
Suddenly, within a week’s time, Warren went from friendly owner who wanted to help Colon get a dog, when she told him she didn’t need him to help with the fundraiser, to actually reaching out to other families and badmouthing her, which ultimately cost her the fundraiser.
“I thought back to the McLeods and what they were going through,” said Colon.
She now runs a website, stopdadscammers.com, and said she has made it her goal to get Dan Warren out of business and to prevent him from harming more families like hers and the McLeods and the dozens of others she’s already heard from.
Colon said, “He needs to go down.”
A ruling on the Warren’s motion in the McLeods’ lawsuit is expected in the next two weeks.