Couple claims they lost farm after following lawyer's advice

Kelly Holleran Apr. 26, 2010, 6:00am

A couple is claiming they lost their farm and a lawsuit after following their lawyer's faulty advice.

Jerome and Lana Korte filed a lawsuit April 14 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Penni Livingston of The Livingston Law Office in Fairview Heights.

The Kortes allege they hired Livingston to represent them in a case against Monterey Coal Company or Exxon Mobil. In turn, Livingston hired Ronald Yarbrough as an expert she planned to use in the Kortes' case against Exxon, according to the complaint.

"Both Yarbrough and Livingston worked to persuade the Plaintiffs that they had an extremely lucrative claim, if only it would be turned over to them to work up," the suit states. "As a consequence, the Kortes were advised to sell the property which was the subject matter of the lawsuit, and which would have been an active farm. The Kortes followed the advice and counsel of their lawyer and sold the farm."

The Kortes sold their farm for a "disadvantageous price" after Livingston and Yarbrough convinced them that there were high levels of heavy metal in their soil, the complaint says.

The complaint does not indicate where the Kortes' farm was located.

However, the Kortes did not know that Yarbrough and Livingston had an unusual attorney and expert relationship and that the court would consider Yarbrough an unqualified expert, the suit states.

As a result, the Kortes lost their case and their farm, plus the income they would have derived from the farm, the complaint says. In addition, they claim they incurred substantial debt and incurred medical costs related to their stress and anxiety.

They blame Livingston for causing their financial devastation, saying she negligently retained an expert who did not meet the court's standard sufficiently, failed to pursue the possibility of a settlement with Exxon on reasonable terms as opposed to promoting a multi-million dollar claim with the Kortes' assistance and failed to adequately investigate the claim with an appropriate expert who would have been able to determine the actual value of the Kortes' claim. In addition, they say Livingston negligently compiled a list of damages that were designed to prevent the possibility of a settlement, convinced the Kortes that they could no longer work their farm because of high levels of metal in the soil, falsely promised them they could take part in a subsequent lawsuit against Exxon and promised the Kortes' that she had the experience and knowledge to prosecute the claim when she did not, according to the complaint.

In their complaint, the Kortes seek an unspecified judgment, plus costs.

Timothy O. O'Sullivan of St. Louis will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-176.

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