Crowder declines to add additional question to Buckles appeal

Amelia Flood Oct. 4, 2010, 9:00am


No new questions are going to the appellate court just yet in a legal malpractice suit brought by asbestos plaintiff Judy Buckles.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder declined to certify another question for the appellate court on Monday at an informal hearing with attorneys for Buckles and the former Hopkins Goldenberg law firm.

Buckles is currently appealing previous orders Crowder entered that granted summary judgment to attorney John Simmons and his law firm and partial summary judgments won by the Goldenberg firm – now known as Goldenberg Heller, Antognoli, and Rowland of Edwardsville.

Buckles had asked that Crowder certify a question whether she was entitled to be repaid fees she claims were split between firms without her consent.

Buckles sued the Goldenberg firm, Simmons, his firm and attorney William Miller for allegedly botching the settlements of her deceased husband's mesothelioma claims in the late 1990s.

The plaintiff first filed suit in 2001.

She dropped the first case and refiled five years later.

Simmons and his firm were granted summary judgment without opposition from the other parties.

However, Buckles asked Crowder to bring the Simmons defendants back into the case in February after disputes arose between the remaining parties about his role in the case.

Crowder denied that move in March.

She later granted the Goldenberg firm partial summary judgment.

Buckles then asked for and was granted certified questions for appeal last month.

When asked by Crowder why the fees question was not included in the
original sets of questions, plaintiff's attorney Roy Dripps told the judge it had been an oversight.

"It just occurred to me after the fact," Dripps said.

Dripps told the judge that his client wanted to include all of the outstanding issues in their case before the Fifth District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.

"We felt it was incomplete and we felt if we were going up on appeal we should take up all of the issues the court has expressed concern about," Dripps said.

Crowder then questioned Dripps about the fees issue, telling him that she did not recall ruling on that issue.

"I just don't actually recall you ever arguing this point before me," Crowder said.

Dripps said the point had been raised before and that Crowder had made her opinion on the subject known.

Defense counsel John Papa said he did not recall Crowder ruling on the fees issue either.

Papa also questioned the timing of adding the fees question as well as whether Crowder could rule on the matter with pending notices of appeal outstanding.

"We don't think it is appropriate to add it into the case at this point," Papa said.

Crowder agreed with Papa.

"Let's hold off on this," Crowder said.

She told Dripps the issue could be solved when the appellate court makes its ruling on the other issues before it.

Dripps and Papa agreed to draw up an order to that effect.

The case is Madison case number 06-L-588.

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