Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge granted dismissal in an “untimely” legal malpractice suit against a previously suspended divorce attorney who later sought sanctions against her former client for allegedly filing a frivolous suit he knew was time barred.
In his July 27 order, Mudge concluded that the case was untimely filed. He wrote that plaintiff Christopher Nolan filed the complaint beyond the two year statute of limitations, making dismissal appropriate.
Mudge reserved his ruling on defendants Michael Reid and Amanda Bradley Verett’s motions for sanctions against Nolan, ordering the defendants to file supporting affidavits. He also gave Nolan time to respond to the affidavits.
Defense attorney Roy Dripps of Armbruster Dripps Winterscheidt & Blotegovel LLC in Maryville filed a motion for judgment on March 7, arguing that the action was time-barred.
Dripps allegedly wrote Nolan's attorney, former Madison County judge Thomas Hildebrand, informing him that he filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of Verett. He gave Hildebrand 30 days to voluntarily dismiss the complaint with prejudice or he would seek sanctions against him and Nolan.
Instead, Hildebrand filed a voluntary motion to dismiss without prejudice even though two motions to dismiss were pending.
Dripps filed a motion for sanctions on April 7 on behalf of Verett. He seeks $343.67 for costs and $6,874.37 in attorney’s fees. Reid joined on April 26.
Dripps requested an order sanctioning Nolan and Hildebrand on behalf of Verett.
Dripps argues that Hildebrand knew Nolan’s complaint was frivolous and untimely but filed it to extort money.
“The Court should sanction both plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel for filing a frivolous suit not grounded in the law because the statute of limitations expired on this case nearly a decade ago,” the motion stated.
Dripps also argues that Hildebrand had an “ethical obligation” to inform the court of all material facts, including the defendants’ pending dispositive motions.
“Mr. Hildebrand’s failure to comply with his ethical obligation is inexcusable,” the motion states. “But it only gets worse.
“Concealing from the Court the existence of the pending dispositive motion was clearly a conscious decision because Plaintiff’s counsel presented the motion for voluntary dismissal but did not even serve it until the day after the Court signed the proposed order.
“This tactic deprived defendants of any opportunity to object to hearing the voluntary dismissal motion before their own motions to dismiss as well as to ask the Court to award costs pursuant to the voluntary dismissal statute,” the motion states.
Reid is represented in the case by Lawrence R. Smith and Lee J. Karge of Brinker & Doyen LLP in Clayton, Mo.
Verett was suspended for 90 days in 2008 for her handling of a family matter between Nolan and his ex-wife.
In his Jan. 17 complaint, Nolan alleged Verett deviated from the standard of care of a reasonable attorney by filing and obtaining ex parte relief against his ex-wife, Tanna Nolan, and a Missouri hospital despite knowing she was not entitled to do so.
Reid also collected attorney’s fees for allegedly engaging in strategy conferences with Verett.
In Nolan’s malpractice suit, he claims he was required to pay $25,000 in Tanna Nolan’s attorney’s fees as a result of Verett’s alleged breach of contract and another $25,000 in fees in defending the assessment of attorney’s fees.
He also alleges Verett charged him $18,569.03 for services, which provided no benefit and put him in a worse position.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 17-L-27