Attorney denies allegations of malpractice in chocolate shop suit

Amelia Flood Feb. 25, 2010, 1:38am

A Belleville attorney denies that he misled a former client who is suing him and his law firm for legal malpractice related to a chocolate shop's lease at the St. Clair Square mall.

A status conference is set in the suit for March 3 at 9:30 a.m.

Plaintiff Tracy Bardin is seeking more than $200,000 and costs from her former attorney, Timothy Bates, and the Bates Law Firm.

Bardin alleges that Bates misrepresented facts about the potential sale of her chocolate business which led to her pay more than $100,000 to get out of her business's lease.

In his amended answer to the suit, Bates denies any wrongdoing and contends that Bardin does not have the standing to bring her suit.

According to her complaint, Bardin and her ex-husband owned Lighthouse Chocolates LLC and leased a space in the Fairview Heights mall.

They became interested in selling the franchise and quitting their lease and informed Bates of their wishes.

Bates allegedly then told the couple he had found financially solvent buyers for them.

He allegedly asked for a fee of $5,000 for finding the buyers.

After disclosing that he was representing both parties and could have an unspecified conflict of interest, the complaint contends that Bates went on to negotiate the end of the Bardins and involvement with the lease in February 2008.

However, the couple that bought the franchise moved out of the mall and stopped paying rent in July 2007.

St. Clair Square then demanded that Bardin and her ex-husband pay more than $1.2 million to honor the full lease.

They later negotiated the amount down to $100,000.

Bardin alleges Bates violated the attorney's rules of professional conduct and that he is guilty of legal malpractice.

In his amended answer to the complaint, Bates denies the allegations.
He also claims that a violation of the rules of professionl conduct does not mean the plaintiff can seek relief.

He also challenges the position that Bardin has the authority and standing to sue on behalf of her business.

Bardin is represented by George Ripplinger of Belleville.

Bates is represented by Russell Makepeace of St. Louis.

The case is assigned to St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien.

The case is St. Clair case number 09-L-183.

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