Johnson & Bell Shareholders, Joseph R. Marconi and Victor J. Pioli, and Associate, Ramses Jalalpour, recently obtained summary judgment on behalf of their 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.