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. 13, 2011.
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 parking lot.
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 vehicle.
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 other theories.
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 2013.
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.