Attorney-Client Relationship

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.)

 

 

Geraci v. Cramer

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In this unpublished decision, the Fifth District affirmed the dismissal of claims against attorneys.  Many of the claims were dismissed because they were time barred.   The court focused on the fact that the statute of limitations begins to run when a plaintiff has sufficient information to be on inquiry notice that he might have a claim.   Other claims were dismissed because an attorney hired by a condominium association did not have an attorney client relationship with or owe a duty to the individual members of the association.

Geraci v. Cramer

 

Bay Group Health Care, LLC v. Ginsberg Jacobs, LLC

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The district court granted summary judgment in favor of a law firm.   The court held that signing a confession of judgment did not create an attorney client relationship between the law firm and the judgment debtor.  The court also noted that, under Illinois law, a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct does not give rise to a cause of action or duty in tort. There is no “ethical malpractice” or “professional responsibility tort” in Illinois.

BAY GROUP HEALTH CARE, LLC v. GINSBERG JACOBS, LLC, Dist. Court, ND Illinois 2017

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

Stevens v. Sharif

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The court held that the plaintiff failed to state a claim against a lawyer, in part, because she failed to allege the existence of an attorney client relationship.   The fact that the plaintiff was represented by other counsel made it implausible that the defendant lawyer represented her.   The court further held that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations.   The claim accrued when the underlying bankruptcy court made its initial decision; accrual did not depend upon the result of the subsequent appeal.

Stevens v. Sharif, No. 15 C 1405, 2017 WL 449175 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 2, 2017)

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

Recent Illinois Case: Short v. Grayson

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The Northern District of Illinois enforced an arbitration clause in an attorney retainer agreement.  In doing so, the Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that it was against public policy to enforce an arbitration agreement in an attorney retention agreement where the lawyer fails to fully explain the clause.

Short v. Grayson, No. 16 C 2150, 2016 WL 7178463 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 9, 2016)

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

Recent Illinois Case: Bachewicz v. Holland & Knight

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In this unpublished opinion, the First District affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to a law firm.

The court held that the case was time-barred despite the plaintiff’s argument that he did not know the amount of his damages until less than two years from the time he brought his claim. The court held that it is not necessary to know the amount of damages for the statute of limitations to begin to run.

The court also held that the plaintiff failed to create a genuine issue of fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment because he did not identify the documents that allegedly led him to discover his damages.

Finally, the court affirmed summary judgment for the defendants on the plaintiff’s legal malpractice claim arising out of a transfer of real estate with which the defendants assisted because the plaintiff admitted that the transfer occurred after the attorney-client relationship had terminated.

Bachewicz v. Holland & Knight, 2016 IL App (1st) 153394-U

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

Recent Illinois Case: Barry v. Galloni

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The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s determination that a judgment in favor of an intended beneficiary against a lawyer who forged a witness’s signature on a will — resulting in the intended beneficiary losing the benefit of the will – could not be discharged in the lawyer’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding.

Barry v. Galloni, 2016 WL 245912

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