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Judge denies summary judgment in legal malpractice suit

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A federal judge denied summary judgment for an attorney and his law firm on legal malpractice and other claims, ruling the defendants failed to present a coherent argument to support summary judgment.

Elizabeth Stefan, a resident of Hungary, was a passenger in a car driven by Lajos Vesgo when it was in an accident. She became a quadriplegic as a result of the crash. At some point she hired Jeffrey J. Stesiak of Sweeney Pfeifer Morgan and Stesiak in South Bend to recover money for her injuries. Stefan was trying to recover from Vesgo’s insurance policies.

Stesiak filed a suit on Stefan’s behalf against Vesgo in April 2000 to try to recover under an Auto Owners policy. This case concluded May 21, 2003, when the court accepted the parties’ stipulation of dismissal with prejudice. Stesiak claimed he learned the policy had an exclusion that made Stefan’s lawsuit meritless and he discussed this with Zoltan Hankovszky, a New York attorney who agreed to help Stefan communicate with Stesiak while she was living in Hungary. It’s unknown if or when Stefan learned of the dismissal. She claimed to not have known until 2008.

The record also showed that Stefan had various other individuals communicate with Stesiak over the years, including an attorney named E. Spence Walton, who was asked to contact Stesiak by an attorney in Tucson. Stesiak wrote to Walton Nov. 9, 2003, explaining that once he realized there was no coverage for Stefan’s claim, he dismissed the lawsuit. Walton claimed to have sent the information along, but the record isn’t clear to whom he sent it.

In October 2008, Stefan sued Stesiak and his firm, alleging legal malpractice, breach of contract based on a covenant not to sue or execute, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty. Stefan argued Stesiak erred in failing to properly pursue recovery under the Auto Owners policy.

Both parties moved for summary judgment and U.S. District Senior Judge James T. Moody denied both motions in Elizabeth Stefan aka Stefan Gyorgne v. Jeffrey J. Stesiak, Esq. and Sweeny Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak, No. 3:08-CV-471.

“…defendants have not shown that there are no genuine issues of material fact relevant to what date plaintiff’s claims accrued,” he wrote. “Instead, defendants have merely confused the facts and have failed to present a coherent argument justifying summary judgment.”

Stesiak moved for summary judgment claiming that the complaint was filed after the statute of limitations. He repeatedly claimed that Stefan’s lawsuit against Vesgo was dismissed Nov. 9, 2003, but the dismissal order is dated May 21, 2003. The Nov. 9 date is the date Stesiak allegedly responded by letter to Walton about the status of the case. But Stesiak doesn’t even argue that’s the date Stefan should be charged with knowing of the lawsuit’s dismissal. He also made other confusing or factually unsupported assertions in his motion, noted the judge.

Stefan also “muddled the water” in this litigation because although she claims to be the one entitled to summary judgment she never meaningfully developed this argument.

“As this order reveals, there are ample issues of material fact that have yet to be resolved,” wrote Judge Moody.
 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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