Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, January 24, 2020

Man accused of making false statements about home explosion appeals summary judgment


By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Feb 20, 2019

General court 01

A man accused of making false statements regarding the circumstances of a home explosion has appealed St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson’s order granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs.

Defendant Christopher Arnold, who is representing himself pro se, filed a notice of appeal on Jan. 7, roughly one month after Gleeson granted summary judgment on Dec. 10.

In his notice to appeal, Arnold argues that he should be granted immunity protections provided in the Citizens Participation Act, which he claims grants “citizens acting on their Constitutional rights to speek (sic) freely to participate in govt. It is designed to protect citizens in Illinois from this exact type of case.”


He further argues that the Act allows for damages to the prevailing party.

“Therefore, the appellant pray this court to grant the defendant’s judgment of counterclaim for $50,000 for bringing this malicious prosecution against the appellant. Not only was or is (sic) a malicious prosecution, it is a violation of the defendant or appellant’s civil rights. It was a lawsuit clearly designed to intimidate, to cause harm to the appellant,” Arnold wrote.

In his order, Gleeson concluded that Arnold admitted the falsity of statements made against attorney Ronald S. Motil of Glen Carbon when he affirmed allegations in Count I of the plaintiffs’ complaint. He even sought to retract the alleged false statements.

“Upon consideration of the pleadings and statements made in open court, the court hereby finds that by those deliberate, unequivocal statements about facts within his particular knowledge, Christopher Arnold has made conclusive judicial admissions,” the order states.

The order states that Arnold has admitted that he falsely stated to a third party that Lee and Cheryl Irwin lied about the circumstances of an explosion at the residence, falsely stated that the Irwins perjured themselves and falsely testified with regard to circumstances of the explosion, falsely stated that the Irwins abused and traded in illicit controlled substances and that the Irwin’s use of controlled substances was the cause of the explosion, and falsely stated that Motil instructed him to tamper with and/or destroy evidence.

Plaintiffs Lee Irwin, Cheryl Irwin and Motil filed a motion for summary judgment on Dec. 5 through attorney Thomas Keefe Jr. of Keefe, Keefe & Unsell in Belleville. They argue that the defendant “confirms” in his answer to the allegations that he made false statements.

“Further, in his pleading filed on August 8, 2018, defendant has already acknowledged to this court that those statements about Mr. Motil were untrue – he attempts to rescind them,” the motion states.

The plaintiffs had filed a motion for sanctions on Oct. 25, arguing that the defendant has expressed erratic behavior. They claim Arnold “called threatening us with a ‘tell-all story’ in the Belleville News Democrat, and asking if we wanted ‘a copy of the interview.’”

“Plaintiff’s counsel respectfully asks this court to instruct Mr. Arnold to drive someone else crazy other than us,” the motion states.

The Irwins filed their original lawsuit in Madison County against AmeriGas Propane Inc. and property owner Doris King in February 2015 following an explosion that was allegedly caused by leaking gas (15-L-183). The suit was filed through Motil, who withdrew his appearance on Oct. 25, 2017. Keefe took over as plaintiff attorney in the injury suit.

The plaintiffs filed their three-count defamation complaint against Arnold on Jan. 18, 2018. The Irwins allege Arnold falsely said they lied about the circumstances of the explosion, have perjured themselves, abused controlled substances, traded in illicit controlled substances, and that the alleged use of the controlled substances caused the explosion.

Motil alleges Arnold falsely stated that he instructed the defendant to tamper with and destroy evidence.

Cheryl Irwin individually alleges Arnold stated that she swore falsely and perjured herself in an unrelated protective order proceeding.

The plaintiffs claim Arnold published the alleged statements on June 27, 2017, in a telephone call to a “1-800” phone number, by an unprivileged conversation with Motil, and at other times to be identified in discovery.

The plaintiffs allege Arnold’s statements have substantially damaged and will continue to damage them.

They seek more than $20 million, plus costs.

In the Irwins’ original 2015 complaint against AmeriGas and King, the Irwins allege they entered into a lease agreement with King to rent a property located at 805 Troy Street in Collinsville on Sept. 22, 2014. Prior to moving in, the Irwins allegedly entered into an agreement with AmeriGas to provide propane gas and related services to the property through a propane tank located in the rear of the residence and gas service lines located throughout the residence.

The propane tank provided propane to various gas appliances within the home, including the water heater located in the basement.

At approximately 2 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2014, an AmeriGas employee partially filled the propane tank with 100 gallons of liquid propane. The employee was unable to light the water heater but allegedly informed the Irwins that he would allow propane to enter the home so the gas stove could be used. He then left the property around 3 p.m.

The suit states that when Lee Irwin returned home from work at 6 p.m., he and Cheryl Irwin went into the basement and attempted to light the water heater. However, his attempts to light the appliance caused an explosion due to leaking gas.

State Farm also filed a lawsuit involving the explosion on behalf of King and against AmeriGas.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 18-L-35

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Organizations in this Story

Motil Law OfficeKeefe Keefe and Unsell

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