ISBA off hook in $3.7 million Lakin malpractice judgment

Steve Korris Jul. 24, 2008, 7:17am


SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State Bar Association Mutual Insurance doesn't have to cover a $3,752,601.80 judgment in a legal malpractice claim against Tom Lakin and the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River, Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley ruled July 14.

Kelley found that Lakin breached its malpractice policy by notifying Bar Association Mutual of an Oklahoma lawsuit eight months after the filing of the suit.

Bar Association Mutual learned about the suit in April 2007, when U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan of Tulsa entered default judgment against the Lakin firm.

Former Lakin client Stephen Williams filed the suit, alleging the firm settled his injury claim and recommended that he invest the proceeds with SBU Inc.

James Gibson of SBU took the money and absconded to Belize, where U.S. agents captured him and presented him for a trial that ended with his imprisonment.

The Lakin firm has petitioned for relief from Eagan's judgment at federal appeals court in Denver, but Kelley decided that State Bar Mutual won't pay for the appeal.

"Illinois State Bar Association Mutual has no duty or obligation to defend L. Thomas Lakin and Lakin Law Firm in connection with the claims of Stephen Williams," he wrote.

His ruling does not close the case, for State Bar Mutual seeks to escape completely from any obligations under a policy it issued to Lakin and his firm.

According to the insurer, the law firm misrepresented facts in applying for the policy.

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