MOUNT VERNON – Fifth District appeal judges cleared lawyer Joseph Hoefert of a malpractice claim on April 1, finding former client Denzil Ridenour sued him too late.
Justices James Donovan, James Wexstten and Stephen Spomer rejected Ridenour's claim that a statute of limitations didn't run because Hoefer concealed his malpractice.
"Hoefert did not fraudulently conceal plaintiff's cause of action," Donovan wrote.
"He did not have to advise plaintiff of his own possible malpractice," he wrote.
Ridenour suffered injuries in 1994, and retained Hoefert to represent him.
Hoefert referred the case to Richard Gibson, arranging to share in any recovery.
Gibson filed suit in Madison County in 1995, and it took 10 years to come to trial.
Gibson didn't show up for trial, so Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian dismissed the suit with prejudice.
Ridenour sought advice from Hoefert on a possible malpractice claim.
Hoefert referred him to the late Morris Chapman, who filed suit against Gibson in 2005.
Chapman died, and Brad Hunt took Ridenour's case.
In 2008, after Ridenour learned that Gibson and Hoefert arranged to share fees, Hunt amended the complaint to include Hoefert.
Hoefert moved for summary judgment applying a two year limit.
Matoesian granted it, and the Fifth District affirmed him.
"Plaintiff argues that Hoefert's failure to disclose his own responsibility for any negligence of Gibson in handling plaintiff's claim is as much a fraud at law as an actual affirmative false representation or act," Donovan wrote.
"Hoefert, however, advised plaintiff to consult with another attorney to explore the legal options available to him," he wrote.
Richard Korn represented Hoefert.
Gibson continues defending Ridenour's claim in Madison County, representing himself.