Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Attorney denies liability in legal malpractice suit over man’s estate

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Feb 16, 2016

A law firm accused of legal malpractice for allegedly mishandling a man’s estate filed a counterclaim against the decedent’s family, arguing that the decedent’s remarriage bars the allegations raised in the complaint.

Donald Knuckles Jr. filed the lawsuit on Nov. 18 against Binsbacher & Griffithe and attorney Valroy Binsbacher.

According to the complaint, Knuckles’ father executed a trust on Jan. 27, 2000, in which he appointed his son as successor trustee. At the time he executed the trust, Knuckles Sr. was married to Brenda L. Knuckles. Then on Aug. 17, 2001, the marriage dissolved.

However, the two remarried on March 20, 2011, but the decedent never amended the trust regarding his wife and the plaintiff’s mother, the suit states.

Knuckles Sr. died on May 25, 2012.

The plaintiff retained Binsbacher to represent him in the administration of the trust on June 21, 2012. Knuckles Jr. alleges his questions weren’t answered adequately.

As a result, the plaintiff claims he suffered injury and loss by the depletion of trust assets he used to assist his mother, lost interest of the money, attorney’s fees and costs associated with the case and the plaintiff’s time required to fulfill his duties as trustee.

Brenda Knuckles also filed a legal malpractice suit against Binsbacher and his firm on Aug. 4, making similar allegations. The defendants countersued Brenda Knuckles in her lawsuit, alleging that prior to Donald Knuckles Sr.’s death, he reaffirmed his estate plan (15-L-440).

The defendants answered the complaint on Dec. 28 through attorney A. J. Bronsky of Brown & James in St. Louis, denying the allegations against them.

They argue that the plaintiff’s alleged damages have been “satisfied by accord and satisfaction in litigation with Brenda Knuckles.”

They also filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment, arguing that the remarriage of Donald Knuckles Sr. and Brenda Knuckles bars the plaintiff’s allegations.

The plaintiff answered the affirmative defenses and counterclaim on Jan. 13 through attorney Robert Schmieder II and Paul Johnson of SL Chapman LLC in St. Louis. He denies the allegations and argues that the defendants’ negligence caused his alleged damages.

Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson scheduled a status conference for March 14 at 9 a.m.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-660

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