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Jury sides with plaintiff in wrongful death case

---Victim was brother to Walworth County judge

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published July 23, 2007, 3:44 p.m.)

A jury Thursday awarded $334,848 to the widowed sister-in-law of a Walworth County judge following a wrongful death civil case.

Kimberly A. Gibbs sued Mark A. Hackendorf, of Menominee Falls, after Heckendorf cutoff Lee S. Gibbs on June 11, 2005, causing an accident in the town of Geneva.

Lee Gibbs, 51, was on a motorcycle and struck the left-turning Dodge Durango Heckendorf was driving. Heckendorf did not see Lee Gibbs and Gibbs could not stop in time. He hit the passenger side of the truck and was thrown from the cycle, according to police reports.

He was not wearing a helmet and died at the scene, at the intersection of McDonald Road and Balsdon Drive, according to police reports.

Kimberly Gibbs sought about $1.5 million, said Attorney Jeffrey Leavell, who represented Heckendorf and his insurance company. The two were still married, but separated and lived in different homes in the Lake Geneva area for several years, Leavell said.

"We're pleased with the result," the attorney said.

Lee Gibbs is the brother of Walworth County Judge Michael Gibbs.

Heckendorf did not seek a change in venue.

"We have great faith in the system and the judges in Walworth County and felt our client would receive a fair hearing here, particularly with the experience and respect of Judge (John) Race, who did a wonderful job presiding," Leavell said.

The trial started on Monday and a jury reached the verdict late Thursday afternoon.

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