Legal malpractice case against Lakin settles

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 3, 2005, 8:08am

On trial for legal malpractice, the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River settled with the plaintiffs who accused the firm of not filing a timely wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their son, Michael Coates.

Plaintiff William Coates claimed the Lakin firm "messed up" by allowing the statute of limitations to expire before it could sue the owner of a cow believed to be responsible for the auto accident death of his son in 1994 in Greene County.

The one-day trial which settled Thursday almost ended in a mistrial.

During testimony, Alinda Coates, Michael Coates' mother, uttered prejudicial statements claiming the firm encouraged her to sue the firm because "that is what insurance is for."

Plaintiff attorney William Bosslet had told the jury that he was seeking damages in excess of $333,333 during his opening argument.

Juror selection began Monday and was picked Wednesday.

The original lawyer who filed Coates' complaint in April 2002, Gary Peel, now works for the Lakin Law Firm.

Coates claims he hired the defendants in April 1996 to pursue a lawsuit, but the Lakin Law Firm and its attorney, Lee Barron, breached their duty to perform legal services in a competent, timely and non-negligent manner.

Coates first learned of the alleged negligent act when he met with Craig Jensen of the Lakin Law Firm in March 2001 and was told, “We messed up and you’ve got every right to sue the Lakin Law Firm,” he claims.

According to the complaint, Coates alleged he lost his rights to pursue a case against the owner of the cow, all to his damage in a sum in excess of $50,000.

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack presided over the case.

Barron now runs a solo practice in Alton. He once played professional soccer for the Cleveland Cobras.

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