Putnam attorney accused of keeping clients in the dark

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 22, 2010

WINFIELD - In failing to keep his former clients informed on the status of their personal injury case, a Putnam County attorney is now a defendant in a legal malpractice suit

Cheryl Ann and Danny Wayne Briscoe of Winfield filed suit against John Grafton in Putnam Circuit Court. In their complaint filed on Dec. 23, the Briscoes allege Grafton, 39, a sole practitioner in Winfield, neglected to keep them informed on the status of a lawsuit they filed in 2004 only to find out it was dismissed in 2007, and an appeal never filed.

According to court records, the Briscoes filed a lawsuit in Putnam Circuit Court on Oct. 7, 2004, Diane K. Crouch., who is also known as Diane K. Fitzsimmons. In the suit, the Briscoes allege Cheryl fell on the unlit stairs of Crouch's house two years earlier.

Due to the fall, Cheryl alleged she was permanently disabled, and unable to return to work. At the time the suit was filed, Cheryl maintained she incurred medical expenses totally $26,674.52.

In their suit, the Briscoes asked for unspecified damages, recovery of the medical expenses, court costs, attorney fees and interest. Danny made a claim for loss of consortium.

After almost 2 ½ year of discovery, then-Putnam Circuit Judge Ed Eagloski asked for both sides to submit arguments on whether he should grant a motion made on Jan. 12, 2007, by Crouch's attorney, Wendy Greve, for summary judgment. He asked their findings of facts, and conclusions of law be submitted by Feb. 2.

Records show 11 days later Eagloski granted Greve's motion. He based on his ruling on Briscoe's admission she was familiar with Crouch's house, and was not watching as she was going down the stairs.

As the four-month deadline approached to file an appeal, records show Eagloski gave Grafton an extension until July 13. He later granted two other extensions giving Grafton until Aug. 17, 2007 to file an appeal.

In a letter from his office dated Aug. 17, Grafton submitted his appeal to the Putnam Circuit Clerk's Office. The appeal contained what appeared to be the necessary brief outlying the reasons why the state Supreme Court should overturn Eagloski's ruling.

However, on Sept. 28, the Clerk's Office notified Grafton it could not submit the appeal to the Supreme Court until Grafton included, among other things, a docketing statement, nine copies required for filing and the appeal fee. The letter noted that a deputy clerk contacted Grafton's office "on several different occasions" during the previous six weeks concerning the missing fee, and paperwork. Records show the Clerk's letter to Grafton was the last filing in the case.

In their legal malpractice suit, the Briscoes allege Grafton neglected the personal injury suit by failing to return their repeated telephone calls, and even advise them the case was dismissed following Eagloski's order granting summary judgment. In failing them, the Briscoes seek from Grafton $750,000 -- $500,000 for Cheryl and $250,000 for Danny -- the amount they hoped to get from Crouch.

They are represented by Dunbar attorney George A. Daugherty. The case is assigned to Judge Phillip M. Stowers.

Putnam Circuit Court, case numbers 09-C-537 (Grafton malpractice) and 04-C-372 (Briscoe personal injury)

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