Chapman estate files counterclaim for setoff in legal malpractice case

Amelia Flood Mar. 10, 2010, 9:13am


As a legal malpractice trial date nears on Monday, one of the many Madison County attorney defendants has filed a counterclaim asking for set-off in case of a verdict against it.

The suit brought by plaintiff Denzil Ridenour of Jerseyville alleges that Wood River attorney Richard Gibson and Morris Chapman of Granite City mishandled his personal injury suit filed in Mississippi in 1994. Chapman, who died in 2007, is named as a defendant through his estate.

His estate filed the claim for set-off on March 5.

Gibson's former law firm, Carlson & Carlson P.C. of Alton, and Jon Carlson were named as defendants in the suit.

Alton attorney Jospeh Hoefert was also named as a defendant in the suit.

They were dismissed in August 2008 by Ridenour.

Ridenour's suit seeks damages in excess of $100,000 per each of its four counts and costs.

The trial had been scheduled in February but was moved due to an attorney conflict. It is now set to start March 15 at 9 a.m.

According to his second amended complaint, Ridenour was injured while working as a truck driver in 1994 in Mississippi.

Ridenour retained Hoefert who referred him to Carlson & Carlson and
its attorney, Gibson. This was allegedly done with the understanding that Hoefert would receive part of any fees resulting from the suit which was filed in Mississippi.

Gibson, then working for the Carlson firm, represented him in the resulting personal injury lawsuit. The representation was on a contingency fee basis.

Gibson then allegedly left the Carlson firm, set up his own practice in Wood River and took Ridenour's file with him.

Ten years after the 1995 Mississippi filing, Ridenour claims his case was set for trial but that Gibson was not prepared and failed to appear ready. The Mississippi suit was then dismissed.

Ridenour claims that due to Gibson's error, he lost out on damages for his pain and suffering, lost wages of about $23,000, disability and medical expenses.

After the Mississippi suit was dismissed, Ridenour hired Chapman in 2005, again on a contingency fee basis.

Gibson had, meanwhile, appealed the Mississippi suit's dismissal.
The two attorneys then allegedly communicated back and forth about the appeal, with Chapman eventually telling Gibson to stop pursuing it.

A Mississippi appeals court later dismissed the case.

Ridenour claims Chapman was negligent in stopping Gibson from prosecuting a winnable appeal and failing to exhaust the plaintiff's remedies.

Ridenour claims that Hoefert failed to advise him in 2005 of his legal rights related to the suit's dismissal including the potential for a legal malpractice claim. Ridenour claims he learned of that claim in April 2008.

Gibson is also a defendant in another legal malpractice suit pending over similar claims.

Chapman is the father of Illinois Appellate Court Judge Melissa Chapman.

Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian is presiding.

Ridenour is represented by Bradford Hunt.

Gibson represents himself.

The Chapman estate is represented by Michael Nester.

Hoefert is represented by Richard Korn.

The case is Madison case number 05-L-660.

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