Anne v. Altenbernt, 2018 IL App (2d) 170614-U

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On February 10, 2017, Remesh Anne filed a legal malpractice complaint against his former attorney, Marc Altenbernt, who had represented Anne through the dissolution of Anne’s marriage. He alleged that Altenbernt had failed to properly inform the Court of the nature of his wife’s state retirement plan during the dissolution proceedings, resulting in the Court grossly undervaluing the plan when it divided up the marital property between Anne and his wife.

Altenbernt moved to dismiss, citing the statute of limitations imposed by 735 ILCS 5/13-214.3(b) (“An action for damages based on tort, contract, or otherwise […] against an attorney arising out of an act or omission in the performance of professional services […] must be commenced within 2 years from the time the person bringing the action knew or reasonably should have known of the injury for which damages are sought.”). Altenbernt contended that, at the latest, Anne knew or should have known to inquire further about any actionable wrong on the day the final judgment had been issued: January 15, 2015. The trial court dismissed Anne’s claim.

On appeal, Anne argued that the date by which he knew or should have known about any wrongdoing was February 12, 2015, when his new attorney told him of Altenbernt’s error. This would mean he filed his complaint against Altenbernt two days before the statute of limitations had expired. The Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, disagreed, and affirmed the dismissal. In so doing, it held that “as a matter of law, plaintiff’s duty of inquiry began no later than January 27, 2015, when he retained his new attorney.” Id. at ¶16.

Anne v. Altenbernt, 2018 IL App (2d) 170614-U

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)

 

Zombro v. Jones, 2018 IL App (4th) 170442-U

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The third-party plaintiff, Vicky Jones, sued the third-party defendant, attorney Kevin Hammer, for legal malpractice in a real estate transaction where Hammer had represented her.

Jones alleged that Hammer had grossly understated the price of her land in the contract he drafted, threw the contract at Jones during a meeting, and lambasted the deal in front of the buyers, thereby inducing Jones to sell her land for one eighth its supposed market value. Conversely, Hammer and the buyer alleged that Hammer had correctly stated the agreed-upon price in the contract, and that Hammer didn’t throw anything at Jones. Hammer also said Jones had read the final contract and asked him questions before signing.

The Trial Court granted summary judgment in Hammer’s favor. When Jones appealed, Hammer argued that he had not breached any duty to Jones, because he had technically performed the two tasks she had hired him to do. The Appellate Court rejected this “scope-of-engagement” argument, holding that Hammer, as Jones’ attorney and therefore his agent, was not merely obligated to perform certain tasks, but also owed Jones a fiduciary duty “to treat his principal with the utmost candor, rectitude, care, loyalty, and good faith—in fact to treat the principal as well as the agent would treat himself.” Id. at ¶41. This fiduciary duty extended to all tasks he was hired to perform and “all matters connected” with those tasks. Id.

Nevertheless, the Appellate Court found that there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to one critical element of Jones’ claim: damages. Specifically, the deal Hammer allegedly ruined didn’t actually exist, since the deal Jones claimed she had hired Hammer to pursue differed from the deal the buyers believed they were entering into. In fact, the buyers swore that they could not have afforded the land at the price to which Jones believed they had agreed. Moreover, the Court explained that even if it were to assume “for the sake of argument, that Hammer did indeed bully Jones into selling the land for only $5,000, it appears she suffered no resulting harm, because […] Jones presented no admissible evidence that the land was worth more” and “the arm’s-length transaction […] is evidence of the highest rank to determine the true value of property.” Id. at ¶55. Summary judgment was therefore affirmed.

Zombro v. Jones, 2018 IL App (4th) 170442-U

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)

 

 

Alonso v. Weiss, 301 F. Supp. 3d 885 (N.D. Ill. 2018)

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Limited partners in investment funds filed suit on their own behalf and derivatively on behalf of their funds against a court-appointed receiver, alleging she had violated the Investment Advisers Act and Securities and Exchange Commission Rules, breached her fiduciary duties and engaged in legal malpractice. Among other things, the plaintiffs asserted that the receiver had failed to pursue certain litigation opportunities or needlessly pursued others, all to the detriment of the receivership estate.

The primary issue in the case was whether the receiver had intentionally tried to harm the estate. In the Seventh Circuit, “an injured party can only ‘recover from the receiver when the receiver intentionally acts in clear contravention of duty,’ and the receiver will not be held liable for ‘exercise of poor judgment.’” Id. at 894, citing In re Kids Creek Partners, L.P., 248 B.R. 554, 560-561 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 2000). With that in mind, the plaintiffs alleged that the receiver was motivated in part by malice toward a former manager of the funds’ general partner. They also claimed that she breached her duties in order to ingratiate herself with the SEC so it would give her more receivership work in the future.

The Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of the court-appointed receiver. The court held that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that any of the receiver’s allegedly improper actions had been intended to harm the receivership estate.

Alonso v. Weiss, 301 F. Supp. 3d 885 (N.D. Ill. 2018)

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)

Atkins v. Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd. , 2018 IL App (1st) 161961

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The First District reversed a directed finding in favor of a malpractice defendant.   The trial court had found that a professional corporation paid all of its “income” as salaries and therefore had no “profit.” As a result, it could not prove it was damaged by malpractice that allegedly caused it to lose income.   The Appellate Court reversed and allowed the corporation to prove its shareholder’s lost income as a method of proving damage to the corporation.

Atkins v. Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd. , 2018 IL App (1st) 161961

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)

Estate of Hudson By Caruso v. Tibble , 2018 IL App (1st) 162469, appeal denied sub nom. Estate of Hudson v. Tibbie, 98 N.E.3d 29 (Ill. 2018)

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The First District reversed a trial court opinion that granted summary judgment to an attorney.   The trial court held that an attorney hired by the administrator of an estate did not owe a duty to the estate, only the administrator.   The First District reversed and held that the symbiotic relationship between and administrator and an estate meant that the attorney owed duties to both.

Estate of Hudson By Caruso v. Tibble , 2018 IL App (1st) 162469, appeal denied sub nom. Estate of Hudson v. Tibbie, 98 N.E.3d 29 (Ill. 2018)

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)

Doe v. Williams McCarthy LLP , 2017 IL App (2d) 160860

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In this lawsuit, the plaintiff sued the lawyers of a trust for various claims, including invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the Illinois Mental health and Development Disabilities Confidentiality Act (the “Act”). The trial court dismissed all claims against defendants. The three above claims were addressed on appeal, where the second district affirmed in part and reversed in par. Specifically, the court affirmed the dismissal of invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against the attorney and his law firm, finding that the absolute-litigation privilege barred the claims. The court, however, reversed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claim under the Act, holding that the litigation privilege did not bar such a claim. In so doing, the court looked at the legislative history of the Act to determine that the absolute-litigation privilege does not provide a shield for a party charged with violation of the Act.

Doe v. Williams McCarthy LLP, 2017 IL App (2d) 160860

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)

Johnson v. Stojan Law Office, P.C. , 2018 IL App (3d) 170003, reh’g denied (Feb. 22, 2018), appeal denied sub nom. Johnson v. Stojan Law Office, P.C, 98 N.E.3d 51 (Ill. 2018)

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The Third District affirmed the grant of summary judgment on a legal malpractice claim brought against a lawyer related to a trust dispute.  It held that the lawyer did not owe a duty to a beneficiary of a trust because the possibility that he could benefit from the trust is insufficient to create a duty.  The court also held that the plaintiff never actually became a trustee to whom the attorney would owe a duty because the trust was amended before the plaintiff would have become a trustee.

Johnson v. Sojan Law Office, P.C., 2018 IL App (3d) 170003, reh’g denied (Feb. 22, 2018), appeal denied subnom. Johnson v. Stojan Law Office, P.C., 98 N.E. 3d 51 (Ill. 2018)

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)