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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit issues an Indiana opinion today

In Christina Soltys and Danuta Pauch v. Yvonne Costello (ND Ind., MJ Rodovich), a 14-page opinion, Judge Kanne writes:

Christina Soltys and Danuta Pauch were seriously injured in a car accident caused by Yvonne Costello, who, at the time, was driving under the influence of alcohol. Soltys and Pauch sued Costello, who admitted liability; trial was limited to the amount of damages owed to Soltys and Pauch. The district court denied Soltys and Pauch’s eleventh-hour motion to amend their complaint to add a count for punitive damages. After the jury returned its verdict, the district court denied Soltys and Pauch’s motion for a new trial. The district court did not abuse its discretion on either of these issues, so we affirm. * * *

The facts of the accident underlying this case are simple enough * * *.

The facts of the litigation surrounding the accident, on the other hand, are muddled and chock-full of attorney blunders. Soltys and Pauch hired attorney Benjamin Nwoye, who filed a complaint in federal court against Costello in June 2004, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The complaint included negligence counts, and averred that Costello was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident. Unfortunately for Soltys and Pauch, Nwoye made numerous mistakes after the pleading stage of the litigation, some of which led to the imposition of sanctions against Soltys and Pauch. But Nwoye was not the only attorney committing errors in the case. * * *

The outcome of this case seems unfortunate, as the district court noted. Two individuals were hit by an intoxicated driver and suffered serious injuries but were denied proper relief because their attorney did not comply with discovery orders and did not raise valid legal issues that would likely have led to adequate relief for his clients. But, being constrained as we are to review only the issues properly before us on appeal, we cannot remedy this situation. As the district court noted, “any blame lies with the plaintiffs’ attorney.” If Soltys and Pauch have any hope of securing additional relief, they must look to Benjamin Nwoye.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 25, 2008 12:50 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions