The parents of a young Alsip woman who died when the vehicle
in which she was riding, driven by an intoxicated acquaintance, crashed after
leaving a concert in Tinley Park in 2011, have filed suit against the lawyers
they had hired to represent them, saying their attorneys mishandled their
lawsuit against concert production company Live Nation, leaving them to settle
for just $10,000.
On June 7, Debra and William Elam brought their complaint in
Cook County Circuit Court against attorney Daniel V. O’Connor and the firm of O’Connor
& Nakos, of Chicago, alleging professional negligence against the attorney
and his firm.
They are demanding unspecified damages of more than $50,000
and a jury trial.
The Elams are being represented in the action by attorney
George W. Spellmire, of Chicago.
The lawsuit comes nearly five years after the death of the
Elams’ daughter, Megan Elam, at the age of 18, shortly before midnight on Aug.
According to the complaint and published reports about the
incident, Megan Elam was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Sarah Lavko, then
21, also of Alsip. Earlier that evening, Elam and Lavko had been among a group
attending a concert featuring musical performer Lil’ Wayne at the former First Midwest
Bank Amphitheatre, now known as the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, in suburban Tinley Park.
According to the complaint, the venue’s operator, Live
Nation, allegedly had a policy in place prohibiting tailgating in the parking
lot and barred concertgoers from being alcohol into the concert venue. The
Elams said Live Nation also had security personnel at the venue and in the
Yet, that evening, the Elams alleged Live Nation did nothing
to prevent Lavko from drinking alcohol in the parking lot and inside the
concert. Then, security personnel did nothing to prevent a “visibly intoxicated”
Lavko from driving away from the venue, with Megan Elam and others in the
The Elams contend their daughter was unaware that Lavko was
intoxicated when she got in the car and began the drive home.
According to a published news report about the incident,
police said the vehicle driven by Lavko “left the roadway and ‘flipped over
four or five times’” in the 6200 block of 183rd Street. The
complaint said the vehicle struck a concrete abutment, and Megan Elam was
thrown from the vehicle, landing in a ditch.
She was pronounced dead about an hour later at Advocate
South Suburban Hospital.
Lavko was later charged in connection with the incident.
According to the complaint, her blood alcohol level an hour after leaving the
concert measured .197, more than twice the legal limit.
In the years following their daughter’s death, the Elams
sued Live Nation for negligence and wrongful death in a dram shop action.
After a judge dismissed their complaint in July 2013, the
Elams said the O’Connor firm agreed to settle with Live Nation, without the
Elams’ knowledge, for $10,000. However, just a few days later, the Elams said
the O’Connor firm filed an amended complaint, and then allegedly failed to
support that complaint with “any additional facts or theories of liability
against Live Nation based on its failure to provide adequate security” or any
Instead, the Elams said their attorneys attempted to argue
Live Nation should be liable because it “ ‘required’ Lavko to exit the parking
lot in a specific direction and travel ‘down a dark and dangerous road.’”
The Elams’ amended complaint was then dismissed in October
That was followed by another amended complaint, which the
Elams said relied on the same arguments. Further, the Elams said the O’Connor
firm never filed an answer to Live Nation’s arguments against their complaint,
or against Live Nation’s subsequent motion for summary judgment, which argued
the Tinley Park Police Department had sole jurisdiction over the roads outside
the concert venue.
The Elams said their attorneys, “knowing that they would
lose,” then scrambled to secure a settlement with Live Nation, and “intimidated”
the Elams into accepting $10,000.
The Elams alleged they only learned of their attorneys’
alleged missteps after the settlement deal had been completed.