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Auburn attorney sued over crash suit

Man’s injury case tossed amid delays

– Auburn attorney Kevin Likes is the target of an Allen County lawsuit accusing him of legal malpractice.

The lawsuit, filed this month in Allen Superior Court by Rickey D. Whitaker and Cheryl L. Whitaker, accuses Likes of mishandling a personal injury lawsuit filed in 2008 by Rickey Whitaker.

According to the lawsuit against the attorney, Whitaker was injured in an auto crash in December 2006 and sued the other driver two years later.

When attorneys for the defendant in that case asked Likes to provide information, court documents said, Likes was late in turning over the information. And when he did, the information was “misleading and improper,” according to the lawsuit filed this month.

The original lawsuit was dismissed in Allen Circuit Court because of Likes’ lapses, court documents said, preventing Whitaker from collecting for his injuries. Defense attorneys argued that back surgery Whitaker had before they obtained the information requested prevented them from gathering the evidence they needed. A judge agreed, dismissing the case and awarding $3,700 in attorney fees to the defendants, according to court documents.

Whitaker appealed, and the Circuit Court’s decision was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals in March 2011. In their ruling, the appeals court judges said that Likes’ “failure to timely respond … is unacceptable conduct by an officer of the court.”

Instead, the appeals court ordered Likes to pay $625 in fees as a sanction and reinstated the case. But the appeals court was overturned a few months later by the Indiana Supreme Court, which again dismissed the case. In a split decision, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the driver of the other car.

Whitaker’s attorney, Jason Reese, said there was a $1 million insurance policy on the vehicle that hit Whitaker.

“We’re not saying this is a million-dollar case, but he lost all rights to ever make a claim,” Reese said.

And before filing the lawsuit, the Whitakers tried to resolve the matter with Likes and his malpractice attorneys, Reese said.

“We wanted to negotiate,” he said. “We were ignored repeatedly by Mr. Likes’ malpractice insurance carrier.”

Likes also did not respond to requests to resolve the situation, Reese said.

“We’re not attacking him personally,” Reese said. “But you don’t let a paralegal run your office when it comes to cases.”

Likes declined to comment Thursday on the pending litigation.

rgreen@jg.net

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