Mom gets $6,500 in adoption suit

By Jim Hannah

January 9, 2009 / nky.com

NEWPORT – A Campbell County jury found in favor of a woman who claimed that her adoption lawyer had committed malpractice.

Amanda Goebel was awarded $6,500 in damages on Friday. That’s the amount the lawyer, Carolyn Arnett, earned representing Goebel in the adoption.

The jury of seven women and five men ruled that Arnett did not commit fraud or intentionally inflict emotional distress. Jurors would have had to rule in favor of Goebel on one of those two counts to award punitive damages.

The verdict came after about 14 hours of deliberations over two days. Courthouse observers said it was the longest jury deliberation for a civil trial in Campbell County for at least 18 years.

“It was a very hard case,” said Goebel’s attorney, Shane Sidebottom. “There was a lot of paperwork, and we respect the jury’s verdict.”

Arnett’s attorney, Allen Button, said he doesn’t speak about cases before or after the completion of trials.

The verdicts end five years of legal wrangling in at least five different courts over the adoption of Goebel’s child.

Goebel testified at trial, which started Monday in circuit court, that she decided to give up her child for adoption while severely depressed after getting pregnant by an Egyptian national who was in the United States on a student visa.

She contacted Adoptions of Kentucky, who referred her to Arnett, a lawyer in Louisville. Goebel said Arnett never disclosed that she owned the for-profit adoption company.

Sidebottom said Arnett owning the agency and representing Goebel was a conflict of interest. He repeatedly compared Arnett’s business practices to “baby selling” during closing arguments.

Goebel gave birth in April 2004 and eight days later her parental rights were terminated and the child was given to a Wisconsin couple.

The following May, Goebel reconciled with the baby’s father, Khalid El-Shazly, and they were married.

In June 2004, Goebel filed a motion in Kentucky to undo the adoption and El-Shazly filed his own separate paternity petition.

A state court granted El-Shazly custody of the child in September 2004, but Wisconsin courts refused to honor the Kentucky ruling. The Wisconsin parents raised the baby for two years before a Wisconsin court ultimately ruled in favor of El-Shazly.

By then, El-Shazly had been deported from the U.S. and was living in his native Egypt. The child was sent from Wisconsin straight to Egypt.

Goebel is still married to El-Shazly but she now lives in Hollywood, Fla., and has not seen her child since birth.

El-Shazly previously sued Arnett in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Shortly after U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman ruled his claim could move forward because “genuine issues of material fact exist as the plaintiff’s claim for fraud,” the federal civil suit was settled.

Sidebottom also represented El-Shazly in the federal suit but said a confidentiality agreement prevented him from discussing the settlement.

jhannah@nky.com

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