Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The First District Appellate Court affirmed a circuit court’s dismissal of a legal malpractice dispute based upon res judicata.  The appellate ruling in favor of Johnson & Bell’s client follows a prior dismissal of the legal malpractice lawsuit in 2019.  At that time, Johnson & Bell Shareholders, Joseph F. Spitzzeri and Rory L. Margulis, secured dismissal of the malpractice lawsuit filed against their client.  Johnson & Bell’s client had represented the plaintiff in post-decree litigation, trying to resolve disputes after the divorce had been granted. Johnson & Bell’s client eventually had to sue the plaintiff to recover its legal fees for handling the post-decree litigation. While the fee petition was pending, the plaintiff filed a malpractice claim against Johnson & Bell’s client. He also filed separate malpractice cases against the attorneys who represented him in his divorce proceedings. Ultimately, the fee petition was ruled upon and Johnson & Bell’s client was awarded all of the fees it was seeking. In addition, defense argued that the fee petition litigation should be termed a final judgment with no opportunity for the plaintiff to dispute or otherwise pursue the issue any further.  The defense team argued that the malpractice dispute against their client should be dismissed based upon res judicata.  The court agreed with these lines of reasoning and dismissed the case with prejudice. Plaintiff filed an appeal, arguing that res judicata did not bar his legal malpractice claim against our clients because the divorce court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over that claim and expressly reserved his right to refile it in a separate action. The appellate court disagreed.  In its appellate ruling, the court concluded that plaintiff’s legal malpractice claim was barred by res judicata.  Moreover, it affirmed the lower court’s judgment dismissing plaintiff’s case with prejudice.  Johnson & Bell Shareholder, Garrett L. Boehm, Jr., wrote the appellate brief on appeal.