Attorney has more explaining to do in Biltmore beating suit

By Steve Korris | Oct 26, 2006

Attorney Lindsay Rakers

Two East Alton residents who blame landlord John Kleeman for a beating they suffered in one of his apartments need to do a better job in explaining their case against him.

Madison County Circuit Judge Lola Maddox dismissed claims of Michael Denny and Lisa Denny against Kleeman on Oct. 6, but she gave the Dennys 45 days to rewrite their complaint against Kleeman.

Maddox told the Dennys to prepare a complaint "which sets out the duty of a landlord to protect against criminal attacks of other parties."

Kleeman's attorney, Jane Unsell of Alton, had argued that no such duty existed between Kleeman and the Dennys.

The Dennys sued Kleeman last November. They also sued Noren Twente and Patricia Twente, Kleeman's managers at the Biltmore Apartments in South Roxana.

Attorney Lindsay Rakers of Edwardsville alleged that the Twentes invited her clients to the apartments and when they arrived, the Twentes and others severely beat them.

Rakers claimed Michael Denny suffered injuries to his head, face, left elbow, arms, hands, abdomen, chest and left leg.

She claimed Lisa Denny suffered injuries to her head, eyes, arms and shoulders.

She charged Noren Twente with civil counts of assault and battery. She charged Noren and Patricia Twente with negligence in management of the apartments.

She charged Kleeman with negligence in hiring, supervising and retaining the Twentes.

Kleeman and the Twentes moved to dismiss. Rakers amended the complaint in May and Kleeman again moved to dismiss.

In July Maddox dismissed Kleeman but gave the Dennys 30 days to refile against him. She set jury trial July 16, 2007.

Rakers amended the complaint Aug. 23. She wrote that Noren Twente had a record that included reckless driving, driving under influence of alcohol, leaving the scene and aggravated battery with a weapon.

"John Kleeman knew or should have known that the Twentes were unfit to serve as property manager/landlord as they created a danger of harm to third persons," Rakers wrote.

She wrote that Kleeman failed to warn the public of Noren Twente's violent propensities.

For the Twentes, attorney Gregory Skinner responded Aug. 30 by denying that the Dennys suffered injuries to the extent they claimed.

Skinner wrote, "…the sole proximate cause of any injuries sustained by plaintiffs was plaintiffs' own conduct."

For Kleeman, Unsell wrote that the Dennys failed to allege facts showing he should have known that the Twentes were particularly unfit for the job.

"It is clear under Illinois law, that no duty exists between plaintiff and defendant to protect plaintiffs from criminal activity of third persons," Unsell wrote.

"When a landowner hires a manager, it is not foreseeable that they would commit criminal acts within the scope of their employment," she wrote.

"Furthermore, it is not feasible to require the landowner to effectively referee tensions between a tenant and a non-tenant."

Rakers replied Oct. 3 that Kleeman knew the Twentes before he hired them.

"A simple investigation into the local court file would have revealed the history," she wrote.

She wrote that Twente was unfit because he had battered others previously.

"Plaintiffs have pleaded what is required," Rakers wrote. "The discovery process will reveal additional evidence."

At a hearing three days later, Maddox did not agree that they pleaded what was required. Now Rakers must build a stronger argument on the unfitness of the Twentes and Kleeman's responsibility for that unfitness.

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