Duty

Reynolds v. Lyman, 903 F.3d 693 (2018)

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Brian Reynolds sued the law firm Henderson & Lyman, which represented various LLC’s he co-owned and managed, and one of its lawyers.  Reynolds accused H&L of giving negligent advice to the LLC’s that led him to violate federal disclosure laws.  The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of H&L, explaining that “Reynolds could not bring a malpractice suit on his own behalf because he did not have a personal attorney-client relationship with H&L.”  Id. at 695.  Reynolds appealed.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed, describing the attorney-client relationship as a “voluntary, contractual relationship that requires the consent of both the attorney and client.”  Id.  Given Reynold’s admission that he never asked H&L to represent him, that no one at H&L said anything suggesting it thought it represented him, and that Reynolds never entered into an agreement with H&L to that effect, the Seventh Circuit held that no attorney-client relationship existed. Reynolds argued that, as part-owner and manager of the LLC’s, his interests and theirs were “so closely bound […] as to be functionally indistinguishable.”  Id. at 696.  However, the court rejected this argument.  “‘Simply because the [officers of a business entity] were at risk of personal liability,’” it explained, “‘does not transform the incidental benefits of [the law firm’s] representation of [the business entity] into direct and intended benefits for [the officers].’”  Id. at 696, quoting Reddick v. Suits, 2011 IL App (2d) 100480, ¶ 44.  Rather, the only time an Illinois attorney owes a duty of care to a third party is “when the attorney was hired for the primary purpose of benefiting that third party.”  Id.

Reynolds v. Lyman, 903 F.3d 693 (2018)

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

 

White v. Richert , 2018 WL 4101512

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Anna White filed a petition against her niece, attorney Elizabeth Richert, alleging violation of Richert’s duty of honesty and loyalty as White’s attorney and as trustee of a trust from which both women were to receive distributions.  Richert moved for summary judgment on both claims, arguing that they were time-barred.

With respect to White’s claim against Richert as an attorney, White affirmatively pleaded that she discovered the injury giving rise to her claim in February, 2013, but did not file her complaint until July, 2015.  Thus, the court held that the claim was time-barred. Illinois’ statute of limitations for actions “against an attorney arising out of an act or omission in the performance of professional services,” requires that they “be commenced within 2 years from the time the person bringing the action knew or reasonably should have known of the injury…”  Id. at 5; 735 ILCS 5/13-214.3.

As for White’s claim against Richert as a trustee, the court held that Illinois’ five-year catch-all provision applied, since “Illinois does not provide a specific statute of limitations for claims of breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee.”  Id. at 6; 735 ILCS 5/13-205. The Court held that the statute of limitations had not lapsed, since White could not have known about this claim against Richert until shortly before she amended her complaint in 2017 to include it, “when it became evident during discovery that there was more than one version” of the trust.  Id. at 7.

White v. Richert, 2018 WL 4101512

(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.)

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.)

 

Tagliasacchi v. Morrone, 2017 IL App (1st) 171178-U

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In this unpublished opinion, the First District affirmed the dismissal of a third-party malpractice claim. The court held that the attorney for an estate owes her duty to the estate in the event of a conflict among estate beneficiaries, which was the case here. Accordingly, the plaintiff could not show that the primary or direct purpose of the retention of the defendant attorney was to benefit her, and the attorney owed no duty to the plaintiff.

Tagliasacchi v. Morrone, 2017 IL App (1st) 171178-U

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

 

 

 

Mareskas-Palcek v. Schwartz, Wolf & Bernstein, LLP

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The First District affirmed the dismissal of conversion and breach of fiduciary duty claims against a lawyer and law firm that allegedly closed a real estate sale the day after their client died. The court held that the executor of the estate of the client was the proper party to bring the claim and that the plaintiffs, who were beneficiaries of trusts that were to receive the sale proceeds, did not have standing to bring suit. The court also held that the plaintiffs were not the lawyer’s clients and were not owed a duty by the lawyer because the primary purpose for the lawyer’s retention was not to benefit plaintiffs.

Mareskas-Palcek v. Schwartz, Wolf & Bernstein, LLP

(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