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The Illinois First District Appellate Court affirmed a “not guilty” verdict obtained by Johnson & Bell Shareholders, Joseph R. Marconi and Victor J. Pioli, in a $19 million legal malpractice case.  Johnson & Bell defended a lawyer and her firm that had previously represented a start-up company and its incorporators in setting up the company and pursuing a corporate opportunity of one of the incorporator’s former employers.  The start-up company and its incorporators charged that the lawyer had negligently advised them with regard to their duties to the former employer in establishing a competing enterprise and pursuing the corporate opportunity.  The former employer sued the start-up company and its former employee in a case that was eventually settled for a substantial sum.  The start-up company and its incorporators then sued their attorneys for $19 million in damages, including $14 million in lost profits.

The trial court granted a motion for directed verdict filed by the defense arguing that the $14 million lost profits claims was too speculative under Illinois law.  The trial court allowed the case to go to the jury on the remaining $5 million of the claim.  After three weeks of trial, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty."

On appeal, the start-up company and its incorporators argued that the trial court improperly admitted defendants’ expert’s testimony, the jury was improperly instructed on the standard of care, and that the jury’s verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence.  The appellate court rejected these arguments and ruled that the jury was properly allowed to consider the testimony of defendant’s expert and that the jury’s verdict was supported by the evidence.  The appellate court did not consider plaintiff’s claim that the trial court’s ruling on the $14 million lost profits claim was erroneous.  The appellate court ruled it was moot since the court was affirming the jury verdict on liability.  The appeal was handled on behalf of defendants by Mr. Marconi and Mr. Pioli.

Victor Energy Operations, LLC v. Connelly, Roberts & McGivney, LLC, Illinois Appellate Case No. 1-09-1116 (September 23, 2010)