Jensen seeks to vacate arbitrator award in dispute with SL Chapman

By Ann Maher | Nov 14, 2013



Former SL Chapman attorney Craig Jensen is seeking to vacate an arbitrator’s decision that found he breached an “of counsel” agreement and ordered him to pay the firm $16,500 derived from a lawsuit settlement.

Jensen alleges that USA&M arbitrator Seth Albin engaged in misconduct, exceeded his authority and ruled on matters not subject to arbitration during a hearing in St. Louis in September, according to his complaint against SL Chapman filed Oct. 28 in Madison County Circuit Court.

“During the arbitration hearing, and particularly the afternoon of the September 16, 2013 hearing, Arbitrator Albin took few notes and instead texted, e-mailed, and manipulated his cell phone or hand held device during the hearing,” Jensen’s complaint states.

“During the hearing, Mr. Albin engaged in unprofessional conduct and paid little or no attention to the evidence and testimony of the witnesses.

“During the hearing, Mr. Albin made one or more comments that suggested that Mr. Albin lacked appropriate objectivity to fairly weigh and consider the evidence and testimony.”

SL Chapman attorney Robert Schmieder II brought a petition against Jensen to USA&M in April after Jensen parted ways with the firm in March.

Among other things, SL Chapman accused Jensen of interfering with the firm’s relationship with plaintiff Jesse White in a 2007 maritime case which resulted in the plaintiff terminating the firm’s representation.

The firm also stated in its claim for arbitration that because Jensen allegedly breached contract, he would not be entitled to any contingent bonus fees on any uncompleted cases.

SL Chapman sought at least $100,325 in damages.

Albin issued a ruling on Oct. 18 stating that Jensen’s agreement with the firm was still in full force when he breached agreement on March 15.

Albin ordered Jensen to pay the firm $16,500 being held in a trust account as a result of settlement (in June) of a case identified as “McCurter.”

The arbitration decision also requires, among other things, that Jensen reimburse the firm for expenses and fees related to his personal cases.

In his complaint against SL Chapman, Jensen says the arbitration award is “inherently and explicitly self-contradictory, it imposes an award of damages of $16,500 for an alleged breach and then inconsistently imposes uncertain and undetermined ongoing duties on Jensen.

“In imposing an ongoing duty on Jensen that cannot be enforced in arbitration the Arbitrator entered an award that is inconsistent with the terms of the Agreement.”

Jensen had been employed by the firm originally named Lakin Law Firm of Wood River, which was renamed LakinChapman in 2009 and then to SL Chapman in 2011 when the firm downsized and underwent a restructuring.

Jensen, who is now partner in the Alton firm MeyerJensen, had entered into an of counsel agreement with SL Chapman in November 2011.

Among the provisions in Jensen’s agreement with SL Chapman, he would be compensated $12,500 monthly plus 11 percent in bonus fees for all settled cases.

Lee Barron, as well as Jensen and MeyerJensen, are plaintiff’s counsel in the case.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 13-L-1800.

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