Lakin firm wants judge to set aside $3.7 million judgment; case to be heard April 10
TULSA, Okla. - U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell has set an April 10 hearing on a motion of the Lakin Law Firm to set aside a $3,752,601.80 default judgment.
Chief District Judge Claire Eagan entered judgment last April, in favor of former Lakin client Stephen Williams.
She recused herself in August and the court assigned the case to Frizzell.
Williams retained the Lakin firm to sue his employer, Union Pacific Railroad, over injuries he suffered in Oklahoma in 1991. He and the railroad settled in 1995.
He placed $3 million of the proceeds in a structured settlement with SBU, Inc.
SBU president James Gibson fled to Belize with proceeds from the Williams case and other structured settlements.
Federal agents captured him and brought him back for criminal trial at U.S. district court in East St. Louis.
Gibson now serves a sentence.
The government recovered some of the money but disputes continue.
Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack currently presides over a civil trial of claims that the law firm of Thompson and Coburn could have prevented Gibson's theft.
Williams sued the Lakin firm and its founder, Tom Lakin, in 2006.
After Eagan entered default judgment, Lakin moved to set it aside.
He argued that he thought his insurer would take charge of the litigation.
His son Brad Lakin swore in an affidavit that he didn't know about the judgment until he read about it in a Southern Illinois newspaper.
Eagan denied the motion to set aside the judgment in June.
The Lakins moved for reconsideration, and Eagan denied that in July.
In August, after Eagan recused herself, the Lakins asked Frizzell to reconsider Eagan's order denying the motion to set aside the judgment.
Next, the Lakins moved to set aside the clerk's entry of the judgment.
They also appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, in Denver.
In October they asked Frizzell for a hearing on all pending motions.
Williams responded that Frizzel could decide the motions without holding a hearing.
The Tenth Circuit judges stalled, asking the Lakins to advise them of developments in the Oklahoma court.
Nothing developed, and on Feb. 14 the Tenth Circuit abated the appeal.
The next day, Frizzell decided to hold a hearing on all pending motions.
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