Fatal 1995 Crash Leaves Family Fighting Corboy & Demetrio

Personal injury law firm sued for malpractice in case of young mother's death

When the Pinnick family of Joliet decided to take the case of their daughter's death in a gruesome car crash to a "big league" law firm, they thought Corboy & Demetrio was a reasonable choice.

Corboy & Demetrio is "a premier national law firm (which) represents individuals and their families in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases and is renowned for its achievements in the courtroom," according to the firm's Web site.

The site also touts a number of multi-million dollar and "record breaking" verdicts, and the firm is known by many Chicagoans who see and read news stories of the high-profile cases its attorneys handle.

Now, the Pinnick case is tangled in the courts, the Chicago Reader reported, and the family of the woman hasn't seen a penny of the money they've been counting on to help raise the dead woman's two children and pay medical expenses.

The case started Sept. 2, 1995, when Melissa Pinnick was killed near Crown Point, Ind.  The car she was riding in, along with her two small children and other relatives, was struck by a Cadillac on Interstate 65. 

Cortland Pinnick, then 6, saw his mother's violent death as she was nearly decapitated by the impact, the Reader reported. He was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle next to his then 21-month-old sister, who was seriously injured in the crash.

Corboy & Demetrio agreed to take the case. The firm's investigation, however, presented attorneys with fewer payout options than had originally been expected, according to the Reader.  While attorneys assigned to the case did pursue a lawsuit against the driver of the Cadillac, they found that they didn't have enough evidence to go after the rental car company that provided the car the Pinnicks were in or the car manufacturer.

"With no big corporate defendant the case had become small potatoes," James L. Merriner wrote in the Reader article.

The Pinnicks sued Corboy & Demetrio for failing to preserve evidence after the rented Mitsubishi Diamante the family was in disappeared after being towed from the crash scene. 

Eventually, managing partner Robert Bingle told the Pinnick family “that we felt it was in everyone’s best interest that at this point that we step out of the case and they hire new attorneys to take over.”

The case bounced around in the courts and the Pinnick family now feels that they aren't getting a fair shake in the Illinois Supreme Court

According to Merriner, there are questions being raised about the connections between Supreme Court justices and the law firm in question.

In fact, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that, "Four Illinois Supreme Court justices have been asked to withdraw from (the case) because the justices have gotten political contributions from the Chicago firm's attorneys." 

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