Morris Chapman estate settles legal malpractice case

Amelia Flood May 26, 2010, 6:45am

The estate of a deceased Madison County attorney sued along with several fellow lawyers by a former personal injury client has settled.

The trial of plaintiff Denzil Ridenour's suit against the estate of Morris Chapman, attorneys Joseph Hoefert and Richard Gibson, had been set for March.

Chapman died in 2007. His estate has settled for an undisclosed amount and moved for a good faith settlement finding April 22.

That hearing is set for June 11 at 9 a.m.

Ridenour sued Chapman, Gibson, Hoefert, Jon Carlson and Carlson's law firm for allegedly botching his Mississippi personal injury suit in 1994.

Carlson and his firm, Carlson & Carlson P.C., were dismissed from the case in August 2008.

Ridenour sought damages of at least $100,000 and costs.

According to his second amended complaint, Ridenour was a truck driver when he was injured in Mississippi.

He first retained Hoefert of Alton. Hoefert referred him to Gibson, then an attorney with Carlson & Carlson.

Gibson then allegedly represented Ridenour on a contingency fee basis.

When Gibson left the Carlson firm to begin his own Wood River practice, he took Ridenour's file with him.

Ten years later, Ridenour claims Gibson was not ready for his Mississippi case's trial setting and it was then dismissed.

Ridenour claims he lost out on at least $23,000 and other damages from the Mississippi case due to Gibson's errors.

Ridenour then hired Chapman after the Mississippi case's 2005 dismissal.

Gibson had appealed the initial dismissal although Ridenour had a new attorney.

At some point, the plaintiff alleges the two attorneys communicated about the case, with Chapman telling Gibson to cease pursuing it.

The Mississippi appellate court upheld the dismissal.

Ridenour claims that Chapman stopped Gibson from pursuing a winnable appeal.

He alleges Hoefert negligently failed to advise him of possible remedies including a legal malpractice claim against the other attorneys.

Fifth District Appellate Judge Melissa Chapman is the daughter of the late Chapman.

Gibson is being sued by a different plaintiff on similar claims.

The Ridenour case was assigned to Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian.

The Chapman estate was represented by Michael Nester.

Hoefert was represented by Richard Korn.

Gibson represented himself.

Ridenour was represented by Bradford Hunt.

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

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