Jury awards monetary damages in legal malpractice trial

Ann Knef Jan. 21, 2009, 11:30am


A Madison County jury awarded an injured worker close to $338,000 in a legal malpractice trial against attorney Ann Dalton and her St. Louis law firm.

Frank Krausz of St. Louis sued Dalton and Hammond, Shinners, Turcotte, Larrew and Young in 2007, claiming he would have received at least $397,372.82 in workers' compensation benefits had his case been handled properly.

Jurors deliberated slightly more than an hour in a two-day trial that began Jan. 6 and concluded Jan. 8.

Krausz's attorney, Lyndon Sommer of Sandberg, Phoenix and von Gontard of St. Louis, said his client was granted summary judgment by Circuit Judge Dave Hylla on the question of negligence before the trial began.

At trial, jurors decided the level of Krausz's disability.

Krausz injured his shoulder and neck on the job at Lanter Company on Aug. 21, 2001, while trying to close a jammed trailer door. He hired Dalton on Nov. 30, 2001 to represent him him in a workers' compensation claim.

Krausz claimed Dalton allowed his case to be dismissed by the Illinois Industrial Commission for lack of prosecution in August 2005, and then she failed to timely file for its reinstatment.

He also claimed Dalton failed to advise him of the adverse action until approximately November 2006, more than a year after his claim was permanently barred.

Sommer said he argued that Krausz was totally and permanently disabled as a result of the workplace accident, which, according to an expert witness, would entitle him to $338,037.01.

The defense argued that Krausz was only partially, permanently disabled, which would entitle him to approximately $75,000.

Jon Rosenstengel of Belleville, an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation and personal injury cases, was called on to provide legal and injury expertise in Krausz's case.

Sommer said Rosenstengel's testimony at trial centered on Krausz's level of disability. But in deposition, he also testified on the question of legal malpractice.

Sommer said Krausz's actual damage award was reduced slightly because of a set-off from a previous settlement.

He said the amount of damages asked for in the original complaint was arrived at before their expert was retained.

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