The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Breaking News

October 18, 2013

Verdict clears attorney; city gets nothing

(Continued)

DAVENPORT —

Lawyers battled in court for nearly three weeks in the legal malpractice case, which was moved to Scott County due to pre-trial publicity. Jury selection started Sept. 30 with opening statements and witness testimony starting the next day. Jurors then listened to 12 days of testimony before closing arguments started Wednesday afternoon.

Jurors retired to the jury room Thursday morning where they spent around six hours deliberating before going home for the day. They returned Friday morning and deliberated for five hours before declaring Walker and his firm were not negligent.

"We are very pleased and grateful with the jury's verdict and hard work in this case," said Walker's attorney, Bob Waterman. "Mike Walker is an outstanding trial lawyer who never should have been sued. This verdict fully vindicates him and his firm."

Waterman said the law does not allow for Walker to take any legal action against the city, such as a defamation of character suit.

The city has 30 days to appeal the verdict, but it is unclear if it will take this course. City Attorney Jeff Farwell said an appeal would still need to be discussed with the City Council and its attorneys Hannafan and Hannafan.

Mayor Mark Vulich did not respond to requests for comment.

THE TRIAL

When they announced the suit in 2012, city officials alleged the trust placed in the advice, counsel and opinions of Walker resulted in members not being properly advised about the extent of the city’s liability in regards to the alleged Medicare fraud.

During the malpractice trial, the city tried to convince the jury of this fact and that if the Schultheis case had gone to trial, the city would have gotten a more favorable outcome than it did in the settlement.

Schultheis testified he had complained to his supervisor Joel Atkinson and EMS director Andrew McGovern a number of times without having his concerns addressed. He also testified he had never seen an ambulance claim from the city before he filed his suit in September 2008 under seal in federal court. The city learned about the suit when it was unsealed in September 2009 after the U.S. government declined to intervene, which prompted the city to hire Walker.

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