Friday, September 22, 2017
An amended complaint filed by the illinois administrator alleges misconduct by an attorney retained as successor counsel in an accident case
In September 2007, [client] Henley and Respondent agreed that Respondent would represent Henley in her claims arising out of the July 22, 2006 collision, and Henley discharged Schaaf. Respondent determined that Henley had a legal malpractice claim against Schaaf and [her law firm] SOS, in part because the attorneys had failed to initiate litigation against the City of Metropolis ("City") prior to the statute of limitations expiring on or about July 23, 2007. Respondent believed that prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, Henley had a claim against the City because the City had allowed a tree to obscure a stop sign, and Sutton had failed to stop at the stop sign immediately before the collision.
The underlying claims were settled but the legal malpractice did not
the trial court entered an order bifurcating the trial. Pursuant to the court’s order, Respondent would first need to prove that Henley would have succeeded in the claim against the City had the claim been timely filed, and that she suffered financial and other damages for which the City would have been liable. If Henley obtained a favorable jury verdict on that issue, the court would then immediately conduct a further portion of the jury trial relating to whether Schaaf and SOS were negligent in failing to raise the claim against the City.
The client was involved in another accident shortly before the trial
On August 13, 2012, one week before the jury trial was set to begin in case number 2007 L 28, Henley was involved in another motor vehicle accident in Kentucky. Henley was a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by Alice Jeffords ("Jeffords") when Jeffords’s car was struck on the passenger side by a vehicle driven by Erica Ross ("Ross"). Henley was taken by ambulance from the scene of the accident to the emergency room at Western Baptist Hospital and received emergency medical treatment.
The complaint alleges that respondent was obligated to update interrogatory responses to disclose the accident but
Prior to the jury trial in case number 2007 L 28, Respondent advised Henley and her witnesses not to discuss the August 13, 2012 accident during the trial.
The jury trial in case number 2007 L 28 commenced on August 20, 2012. At no time prior to the trial did Respondent disclose to defense counsel that Henley had been in another accident or that she had received medical care following the accident.
During the August 2012 jury trial, Henley, Henley’s husband, Henley’s son, and Jeffords (the driver during the August 13, 2012 accident) all testified, and none of these witness mentioned the August 13, 2012 accident.
During the jury trial beginning August 20, 2012, Henley asked to be absent from the courtroom during certain parts of the trial because her pain prevented her from sitting for long periods of time. Henley also testified about the pain she was presently feeling.
On August 30, 2012, after jury deliberations, the court declared a mistrial as the jury was unable to come to a unanimous verdict.
On December 17, 2012, the parties attended court-ordered mediation. Respondent did not disclose prior to or during mediation that Henley had been involved in a second car accident on August 13, 2012. The mediation did not result in a settlement of the case.
On January 13 2013, Respondent sent a supplemental discovery response in response to the interrogatories served by defense counsel, revealing the August 13, 2012 accident and subsequent medical care to defense counsel for the first time. Respondent also filed supplemental discovery in February 2013 disclosing records showing that Henley discussed the August 13, 2012 accident with her mental health counselor.
The trial court imposed sanctions on request of defense counsel.
He is also accused of twice violating court orders concerning admissible evidence. (Mike Frisch)