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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues