Obtained summary judgment on behalf of our client in a hotly contested legal malpractice case. Johnson & Bell represented a commercial litigation firm based in Chicago and two of its partners who previously represented a woman who claimed she rightfully owned a gentlemen’s club in Bridgeview, Illinois, following the death of her husband. However, the woman’s husband did not officially appear on any of the ownership documents for the gentlemen’s club as his lengthy criminal record prohibited him from obtaining a liquor license and officially owning the club. Consequently, a dispute arose between the woman and the person who “officially” owned the club. Johnson & Bell’s client represented the woman and filed a lawsuit on her behalf to obtain ownership of the club. Johnson & Bell’s client was eventually forced to withdraw from the case and the woman ended up settling the lawsuit regarding ownership of the club. Thereafter, she filed a lawsuit against her previous lawyers – Johnson & Bell’s client -- claiming legal malpractice that she would have obtained more in settlement if not for the alleged negligence of her lawyers. The woman claimed she sustained $19 million in damages as a result of the alleged malpractice, which represents the value of the gentlemen’s club.
After lengthy discovery and several years of litigation, Johnson & Bell was able to obtain summary judgment on behalf of the law firm and its partners. The woman who filed the legal malpractice claim testified at her deposition that she chose to settle the lawsuit regarding ownership of the gentlemen’s club for reasons having nothing to do with any alleged malpractice by her lawyers. The court therefore found that the element of proximate cause was lacking in her legal malpractice claim and granted summary judgment to Johnson & Bell’s client. The court also found that summary judgment was proper based on the two-year statute of limitations applicable to legal malpractice claims. The court found that the woman was aware of the alleged negligence by her lawyers and that she had sustained damages in the form of increased attorney’s fees more than two years prior to filing her legal malpractice claim.
Successfully defended Crimson AV, LLC against charges of patent infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets. In a case tried to a jury and presided over by Judge Joan H. Lefkow, Johnson & Bell represented Crimson AV, a small manufacturer and distributor of television wall mounts based in Glenview, IL that was sued by Peerless Industries, Inc. Peerless Industries claimed that Crimson AV’s wall mount design infringed its patent and further claimed that the company had misappropriated its trade secrets obtained while Crimson AV’s Chinese supplier had previously served as a manufacturer for Peerless Industries. The Johnson & Bell trial team had to overcome a prior ruling by the court that Crimson AV’s products infringed the plaintiff’s patent, leaving Johnson & Bell to prove that the plaintiff’s patent was invalid. In addition, the court entered a discovery sanction against Crimson AV that shifted the burden of proof on the trade secrets claim. After two weeks of trial, the jury deliberated for two days and returned a verdict finding the patent invalid and finding no trade secrets were at issue. Peerless Industries sought over $4 million in damages plus fees. Peerless Industries was represented by Foley & Lardner.
Secured a defense verdict in favor of a matrimonial law firm wherein plaintiff sought over $2 million in damages. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had advised her to enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) in which her share of the marital estate was less than what she was entitled to and that the defendant had failed to adequately assess the extent of marital assets. Plaintiff claimed that her settlement accounted for less than 35% of the marital assets. Defense contended that the plaintiff's share of the true value of the marital assets exceeded 50% because of her ex-husband's deferred compensation was valueless as it was completely unfunded. Defense argued that the plaintiff neither accounted for certain liabilities in the marital estate associated with her ex-husband's business interests and that the plaintiff's claims were time barred under the two-year statute of limitations applicable to legal malpractice cases.
Obtained summary judgment in favor of our client, one of the top wine importers in North America. The complaint, filed by a competitor, consisted of nine counts, among them: unfair competition, conspiracy and trade secret theft, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference of contracts. It was filed against our client and one of its employees, who previously had been terminated by the Plaintiff from her job as Midwest Regional Sales Manager. In its complaint, the Plaintiff believed that his former employee violated some unknown “ethical duty” to not compete against him – even though the employee was never subject to a non-compete agreement. Plaintiff further charged that our client and the employee – prior to her termination -- conspired to inappropriately convince Plaintiff’s wine suppliers to terminate their relationships with Plaintiff. However, six wine suppliers testified that their leaving Plaintiff had nothing to do with our client or its employee. In fact, two of the wine suppliers are pursuing legal action against the Plaintiff to recover sums Plaintiff still owes them. The Plaintiff could provide no evidence to support any of its other charges against our client and its employee. Given the lack of evidence, the Circuit Court of Cook County granted summary judgment in favor of the defense.
Successfully defended a real estate law firm being sued for malpractice. Our client represented the buyer of a golf course property. On the day before the deal was to close, the acquirer of the golf course told our client that, as part of the transaction, they had negotiated an additional $250,000 note which was to be secured by a mortgage on a separate vacant lot in Frankfort, Illinois. It soon became apparent that the signatures necessary for the mortgage on the $250,000 note and mortgage could not be procured in time for the closing. Our client proceeded with the closing of the transaction after being given assurances that proper signatures on the $250,000 mortgage would be provided soon after the closing. Our client followed up after the closing, but was unable to procure the necessary signatures and record the $250,000 mortgage. The property that was subject to the $250,000 mortgage was eventually sold pursuant to a tax sale and the buyer of the golf course was unable to collect on the $250,000 note and mortgage. The buyer then sued our client, seeking $1 million relating to lost profits associated with the property and other damages. The jury in the malpractice case returned a verdict awarding damages to the plaintiff of less than $1200.
In re the Estate of O’Malley Case No. 09 P 1884. Jury trial finding the decedent’s will and trust was invalid as it was made as a result of the undue influence of one of the decedent’s children.
Received a favorable verdict in a federal court case defending the seller of an airplane. The purchaser of the airplane had alleged claims for breach of contract and fraud on the grounds that the plane was riddled with defects that were known to the seller and not disclosed prior to the sale. The purchaser of the plane sought damages in excess of $2 million. The defense offered to settle the matter for $25,000 prior to trial and the plaintiff asked for $2.5 million. At trial, the defense argued that the plane contained no more defects than would be expected for a used airplane and that the plane was always in an airworthy condition as deemed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The plaintiff contended that the airplane was not airworthy and that the plane had a substantial damage history that was not disclosed by defendant. After seven days of trial, the jury found in favor of defendant on the fraud claim and awarded only $40,696 for breach of contract.
Oak Brook Bank v. Crowley Barrett & Karaba, Case No. 04 L 1249 Circuit Court of Cook County, Law Division. Two-week jury trial. Defended a real estate law firm in this legal malpractice action where the lender sued its lawyers after a construction loan went sour. The plaintiff sought $17 million in damages and demanded the policy limits of $5 million for settlement. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty against all defendants. (2010). The case is on appeal.