Goodyear legal malpractice case against Perkins Coie to be heard

Amelia Flood Feb. 9, 2011, 1:24am


Motions in a legal malpractice suit stemming from a federal personal injury suit involving two law firms and the maker of Goodyear tires will be heard next month in St. Clair County.

The Goodyear plaintiffs filed suit last year against the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP and its attorneys Jeanne Cullen and Matthew Gehringer.

Goodyear claimed that the Perkins firm committed legal malpractice in its handling of a personal injury case brought by a man and his wife in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Perkins Coie then filed a counterclaim against Goodyear.

The firm also filed a third-party complaint against another law firm it partnered with on the Goodyear federal case.

Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson will hear motions filed in the suit brought originally by The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America at 9 a.m. on March 16, according to a Jan. 26 notice of hearing.

According to the original suit filed by Goodyear, the issues arise out of a suit brought by Darla and Mike Green in 2008.

The Greens sued Goodyear allege that while on a motorcycle trip in 2007, the tires on their motorcycle blew out causing an accident.

Darla Green claimed she suffered a brain injury that led to loss of vision, injuries to her voice and other issues due to the crash.

Michael Green claimed that he injured his right knee and that the injury required morphine treatments and surgery.

Goodyear argued that the couple's weight and conditions of worn tires led to the crash, not a defect in the tires themselves.

The company then had the case removed from state court to federal court in East St. Louis.

It hired Perkins Coie to represent it in that case.

According to Goodyear's complaint, the company planned to offer the testimony of Ian Willets, the manager of its Buffalo, N.Y. plant to bolster an answer filed by the Perkins firm that pointed out the Greens' negligence and Goodyear's lack of liability in the Green lawsuit.

Eventually, Goodyear claims that the Perkins defendants' negligence led Willets' testimony to be stricken from the Green suit.

The company claims that the strike led its defense to collapse.

Goodyear also claims that Perkins Coie failed to request a jury trial in the Green suit, forcing the company to settle with the Greens.

Goodyear filed suit against Perkins seeking damages in excess of $50,000 a count.

Perkins Coie then filed a counterclaim against Goodyear along with its denials of negligence in the Green case.

That counterclaim alleges that Goodyear contributed to any alleged foul-ups in the Green lawsuit.

The Perkins' defendants point to their consultations with Goodyear's in-house counsel in the Green case including Dane Taylor and Debbie Okey.

Taylor and later Okey, the Perkins' defendants allege, were their primary contacts at Goodyear and actively participated in litigation decisions.

Perkins Coie also contends that Goodyear breached its contract with them and has failed to pay $888,028.98 in outstanding costs.

The counterclaim seeks that amount, pre-judgment interest, set-off and costs.

Perkins Coie has also initiated a third party claim related to both the 2008 Green case and 2010 legal malpractice suit.

The firm is suing Theodora Oringher Miller & Richman PC of California along with Taylor and Okey.

Perkins claims that Theodora Oringher was the co-counsel in the Green case and coordinated all of Goodyear's litigation throughout the United States.

The law firm claims that Oringher placed the emphasis on Willets' testimony for the defense and that Taylor and Okey refused requests made by the Perkins defendants to add additional witnesses to the defense case.

The third party complaint seeks to hold the Oringher firm, Taylor and Okey liable for part of any judgment entered against the Perkins firm.

Thomas Keefe Jr. and others represent Goodyear in the 2010 case.

Eric Macey of Novack and Macey LLP of Chicago and Robert Schultz represent Perkins Coie, Cullen and Gehringer.

The Oringher firm is represented by Fred Schulz of Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon LLP of Chicago and Stephen Maassen of Hoagland,
Fitzgerald, Smith & Panaitis of Alton.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien originally presided over the case.

The parties asked for and were granted a substitution of judge.

The case was then assigned to St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young. Following Young's retirement last year, the case was assigned to Gleeson.

The case is St. Clair case number 10-L-225.

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