Monday, February 16, 2015

Negligence lawsuit filed against original lawyers in Howie Chizek estate handling

Negligence lawsuit filed against original lawyers in Howie Chizek estate handling

By Ed Meyer, The Akron Beacon Journal
Tribune Content Agency
Dec. 19--The Twinsburg home of late WNIR radio talk-show host Howie Chizek was "damaged down to the bone" in the winter after his June 2012 death.According to professional negligence claims filed last week in a Summit County civil lawsuit, two Cleveland lawyers who initially worked on the estate failed to properly winterize the home, resulting in extensive flooding when water lines froze and burst.Akron attorney William Zavarello, who filed the suit on behalf of Chizek's estate, said estimated damage to the two-story home -- worth more than $400,000 -- was at least $200,000."There was such extensive damage," Zavarello said in a Beacon Journal interview, "we don't even have clean walls and shiny floors. It really was damaged down to the bone."Furniture also was destroyed, he said, so the damage estimate "may be low."Despite sanitizing work after the flooding, Zava­rello said the home isn't in livable condition.The former estate executor, Charles M. Morgan, and Chizek's personal lawyer, Rebecca S. Blair, were named as defendants in the civil action.Claims of breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and professional negligence were filed against both lawyers.Morgan said this week that it would be inappropriate to comment on pending litigation. Blair was unavailable for comment.Common Pleas Judge Todd McKenney was assigned to the case. The complaint was filed Dec. 5; no hearings are scheduled.Chizek, a talk-show icon for decades on WNIR radio (100.1-FM), died June 16, 2012, while taking a group of youths on his New Adventure charitable organization's annual trip to Disney World.Zavarello was retained to file the civil action by the new estate administrator, attorney Thomas W. Kostoff of Fairlawn.Morgan was removed as executor following a Summit County Probate Court hearing on Dec. 9, 2013.Morgan testified at the hearing, telling Probate Magistrate George Wertz that he thought he had turned off the water line to the home in the spring, but "probably turned it the wrong way."

Chizek's brother, Larry, also testified. He told the court that Twinsburg police notified his wife about the problem in May 2013. The flooding was so serious, Larry Chizek said water could be seen gushing out the front doors.In removing Morgan from the estate proceedings, Wertz also found that interest and penalties had piled up on "overdue, unfiled and unpaid" Ohio estate taxes some 18 months after Chizek's death."This estate has been characterized by a series of mistakes and mishaps. Other than the initial filing," Wertz wrote in his ruling, "nothing in this estate has been timely or correctly filed."Wertz ultimately denied payment of Morgan's $14,000 executor's commission.Zavarello said he intends to hire experts in the coming months to evaluate what it will take to restore the home to what it once was."We have a structure that no longer has mold, but is still not inhabitable. It's just safe from the elements," Zava­rello said.Malpractice lawyers will represent Morgan and Blair in the civil action, he said, and a malpractice insurance company will be responsible for getting the home in the kind of shape it was before it was damaged.Zavarello asked for a jury trial. Settlement talks, however, usually occur in such cases.Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at
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