O'Fallon attorney seeks $5.9 million in counter suit against former clients

By The Madison County Record | Jul 9, 2014

An O’Fallon attorney claims a group of his former clients wrongfully accused him of legal malpractice and engaged in malicious prosecution in an attempt to collect money.

David M. Duree filed a lawsuit June 18 in the St. Clair County Circuit Court against Kari Heyser, Fred Eric Heyser, Paul Morris, Marikate Morris, Brenda Villasenor and Henry Villasenor.

Duree seeks compensatory damages of $3.7 million, plus $2.2 million in punitive damages and court costs.

In his complaint, Duree alleges he agreed to represent the defendants in a lawsuit filed against Noble Roman’s in Hamilton County, Ind. In the lawsuit, the franchisees of Noble Boman’s accused the chain of committing common laws fraud, saying it misled them about the costs and profit potential of the restaurants.

On March 23, 2009, the court revoked Duree’s admission to represent the plaintiffs in the Noble Roman’s case, and he stopped representing them, according to the complaint.

In turn, the franchisees hired another attorney, Adam P. Davis, to represent them, and they continued with their complaint as it was written. In a later trial, Davis argued the lawsuit stated a claim for constructive fraud when, in fact, Duree had never included such a claim in the lawsuit, the suit states. Davis attempted to amend the complaint, but the trial court would not allow him to do so, Duree alleges.

Meanwhile, Noble Roman’s filed a series of motions for summary judgment, according to the current complaint. Ultimately, Noble Roman’s was granted the summary judgment with Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Steven R. Nation writing that the franchisees “had no reasonable right to rely on any representations or omissions of the Noble Roman’s parties,” the suit states.

The plaintiffs were sanctioned $8,326 in attorney’s fees for filing a frivolous motion, the complaint says.

A group of plaintiffs then filed an attorney malpractice complaint against Duree. However, Duree contends the claim should never have been filed because the defendants cannot prove he engaged in negligence or harmed their ability to win the lawsuit.

During the attorney malpractice trial, Duree requested interrogatories from all of the plaintiffs, but failed to receive answers to his questions, according to the complaint. On Sept. 11, 2012, the judge granted a summary judgment in favor of Duree.

Later, Duree discovered that the defendants had been prosecuting an attorney malpractice case on behalf of Collette Eugene Harrington, Thomas Brintle and other Noble Roman’s franchisees, which is a violation of Indiana law, the suit states.

Duree accuses the defendants of engaging in malicious prosecution.

The attorney malpractice case has been prosecuted, and prosecution has continued by the Heysers, the Morrises and the Villasenors, maliciously, without probable cause and for the ulterior purpose of using Duree as scapegoat in the event they unsuccessfully prosecuted their case against Noble Roman’s, the lawsuit states.

David M. Duree of David M. Duree and Associates in O’Fallon will be appearing pro se.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-507.

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