Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Illinois Supreme Court
Hernandez v. Pritikin
Hernandez developed Parkinson’s disease, allegedly as the result of his exposure to chemicals at Central Steel, where he worked from 1968 to 1995. From 1995 to 1996, Hernandez was represented by a firm that filed a social security disability claim. From 1999 to 2002, he was represented by Bernstein, Grazian and Volpe, who filed a 1999 workers’ compensation claim, alleging chemical exposure at work. A third law firm was retained in 2004 and filed suit for civil damage recovery, strict product liability and negligence lawsuit against various companies involved in the manufacture and sale of those chemicals; that suit dismissed as time-barred. Hernandez alleged that the Bernstein firm should have advised him that he had other ways to recover beyond seeking workers’ compensation benefits and should have advised that he file a legal malpractice action against the first law firm for its failure to file a product liability suit. In 2009 the circuit court dismissed on grounds of res judicata. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the elements of res judicata had not been proven. View "Hernandez v. Pritikin" on Justia Law
In re: Thomas
The attorney, admitted to practice in Illinois in 1969, was the subject of a 2004 Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission complaint following convictions relating to driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while his license was revoked. The state Supreme Court issued an order suspending him from the practice of law for a period of 18 months, and ordering him to reimburse the Disciplinary Fund for any client protection payments arising from his conduct. In 2007 the ARDC charged him with misrepresentation to a tribunal and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law during his suspension. The Hearing Board found proven misconduct and recommended suspension for two years, but the Review Board recommended dismissal of the charges. The Supreme Court suspended him for one year. While the violations primarily involved representation of the attorney's own bankrupt company and occurred within days of the suspension, the attorney attempted to conceal the misconduct and refused to admit wrongdoing. View "In re: Thomas" on Justia Law
In re Mulroe
The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint against an attorney, claiming that he converted third-party funds; failed to hold property of a third person separate from his own; failed to promptly deliver to the third person funds to which the person was entitled; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or misrepresentation; engaged in conduct prejudicial to administration of justice; and engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute. The Hearing Board found that he had converted funds and violated three rules, but found that the Administrator did not prove conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or misrepresentation, and recommended suspension for three months and mandatory attendance at a seminar on professionalism and office management. The Review Board affirmed, but recommended a six-month suspension. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Hearing Board. The attorney, apparently unaware of proper procedures for handling funds, admitted wrongdoing, expressed remorse, and cooperated. He had not been previously disciplined and offered several witnesses who testified to his excellent reputation for honesty. He spends large amounts of time providing pro bono services and made full restitution. View "In re Mulroe" on Justia Law
Snyder v. Heidelberger
Based on the six-year statute of repose, (735 ILCS 5/13–214.3(c), the trial court dismissed a malpractice claim alleging that defendant negligently prepared a quitclaim deed in 1997 that failed to convey real estate to plaintiff and her husband as joint tenants with right of survivorship. In 2007, when her husband died, plaintiff discovered that the property was still in trust and that ownership would pass to her stepson. The appellate court reversed and remanded. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. The statute of repose is not tied to discovery of injury; the period of repose in a legal malpractice case begins to run on the last date on which the attorney performs the work involved in the alleged negligence.
Studt v. Sherman Health Systems
In a medical malpractice case, alleging failure to diagnose apendicitis, the court gave Civil Jury Instruction 105.01 (2006), which refers to a "reasonably careful," as opposed to a "reasonably well-qualified" (the 2005 instruction) professional. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs and the appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the jury instruction does not accurately state the law, but affirmed. The 2006 instruction eliminated the distinction between institutional negligence, which can be proven without expert testimony, and professional negligence, which requires expert testimony. The hospital was not prejudiced by the instruction because expert testimony was presented in connection with a vicarious liability claim. The court rejected the hospital's argument that the instruction was confusing and allowed jurors to consider personal knowledge in determining what is reasonable.