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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. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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