- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A Roberts County judge has issued a default judgment in a wrongful death lawsuit after finding that the defendant’s North Dakota-based attorney was not properly licensed to practice law in South Dakota.

Circuit Judge Jon Flemmer issued the ruling last month. It allows Teresa Thompson to submit proof of damages in the crash that killed her father.

Fargo-based attorney William Harrie did not follow state law to appear in South Dakota, Flemmer said, so the appropriate action is to quash all pleadings signed by Harrie and consider his actions as null and void. Flemmer acknowledged that a default judgment may be a “harsh remedy,” but to allow a formal answer to the charges to stand “would simply reward the conduct.”

A telephone message left for Harrie was not immediately returned.

Thompson filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Nicholas Helgeson over the Nov. 6, 2009, crash at a rural intersection east of New Effington that killed 95-year-old Winfield Thompson and 79-year-old Richard Chell, both of Sisseton. Helgeson, of Hankinson, North Dakota, was not hurt.

Thompson’s attorney, Robin Zephier, said Tuesday that a motion filed on behalf of an insurer seeking to set aside the ruling will be considered Monday.

Flemmer called for a hearing to determine the full extent of the Thompson’s damages, but Zephier said it can’t be scheduled until after a ruling on the set-aside motion.

A message left for an attorney who most recently represented Helgeson was not immediately returned.


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