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Professional Liability Representative Cases

  • 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.
  • Secured a defense jury verdict in favor of J. Richard Hisaw and his law firm in a legal negligence case involving a foreclosed commercial property. The plaintiff asked for $500,000 in damages.  Johnson & Bell achieved the jury verdict despite the fact that two of our three key witnesses, including our client, are deceased. Mr. Hisaw passed away unexpectedly on December 5, 2017. In addition, George Collins, who served as Mr. Hisaw’s attorney and witnessed certain underlying events relevant to the dispute, passed away in October 2016.In this case, the plaintiff, who is a chiropractic doctor, and her father owned a commercial property.  They had a “balloon” payment at the end of their commercial mortgage that they didn’t pay.  The bank foreclosed on the property and obtained a deficiency judgment for $210,000 against the plaintiff, which she paid.  The plaintiff claimed our client didn’t advise her and she didn’t otherwise know that she could have sold the property before the foreclosure occurred.  The plaintiff estimated that she could have sold the commercial property for a $270,000 profit.  Because of the foreclosure judgment against her, the lost value of the potential property sale and other expenses, the plaintiff sought $500,000 in damages. The defense countered that Mr. Hisaw did in fact advise the plaintiff that she could and should sell the commercial property.  The defense also asserted that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent when she refused repeated requests by her father to sell the property before and after the foreclosure suit had been filed. This defense was bolstered by the testimony of plaintiff’s brother, who described various attempts by him and his father to convince the plaintiff to sell the property in light of the mortgage default.  After eight days of trial, the jury reached a verdict in favor of Johnson & Bell.
  • Defended an Illinois attorney charged with malpractice by the co-owner of a former private equity business. Our client represented the owner in an underlying business dispute with his former partner. When the two former partners terminated their business relationship, a lawsuit was filed concerning the division of more than a million dollars in fees for outstanding projects. The former partners eventually settled the litigation without their respective lawyers. However, the former co-owner later alleged that Johnson & Bell’s client breached his obligations by failing to properly advise him regarding his exposure in the litigation. At trial, we successfully dismantled the defendant’s expert witness testimony and established that the defendant’s allegations were without merit. After five days of trial, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the former client’s malpractice claim against Johnson & Bell’s client. In addition, the jury awarded our client $54,000 in fees owed by his client, the co-owner of the former private equity business. The jury also asked the court whether they could award punitive damages to our client. However, the court instructed the jury that punitive damages were not allowed in the claims submitted to the jury.
  • Successfully defended a real estate law firm being sued for malpractice.  The lawsuit stemmed from a real estate deal to buy the Tuckaway Golf Course in Crete, Illinois for $4 million.  Our client represented the buyer of the 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 by the seller 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.
  • Defended a local matrimonial law firm against allegations of legal malpractice.  In this matter, the Plaintiff claimed that he received inadequate advice from the Defendant about the settlement of a divorce involving a $12 million estate.  The Plaintiff further claimed that the drafting of the Marital Settlement Agreement caused him to become involved in significant post-dissolution litigation.  At trial, the Plaintiff claimed damages in excess of $1 million.  Defendants filed a motion for directed verdict on the issues of causation and the statute of repose.  The court granted the Defendants’ motion for a directed verdict finding that the Plaintiff had failed to show that Defendants should be prevented from receiving the protections of the statute of repose.  On this basis, the court granted judgment in favor of the Defendants on all counts.
  • Secured a defense verdict in a breach of contract case seeking $1.7 million in damages against an inspecting architect. In this case, the plaintiffs, who were first- time developers, were converting a three-flat building into condominiums. The “gut rehab” was nearing completion in 2009 when the contractor left the job, and the project was never finished. Shortly thereafter, the development was foreclosed upon by the bank financing the project. The plaintiffs filed lawsuits against the general contractor and the inspecting architect, among others. The lawsuit against our client alleged that the inspecting architect approved payment for work that wasn’t done or was done defectively and that these approved payments led to the failure of the development project. Defense argued that the inspections were not performed for the plaintiffs’ benefit and that there was no breach of contract. In addition, defense argued that the foreclosure was caused solely by plaintiffs’ conduct. After a three-week trial, the plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury for $1.7 million. The jury deliberated for 4 hours before returning a defense verdict.
  • Received verdict of not guilty after two-week jury trial on behalf of attorneys who represented bank that made $19 million construction loan for development of condominium complex that defaulted.  The bank sued its lawyers for legal malpractice claiming that the lawyers failed to adequately protect its interests in drafting the construction loan agreement and in closing the loan.  Oak Brook Bank v. Crowley, Barrett & Karaba, Ltd., Cook County Case No. 04 L 1249 (2010)
  • Received verdict of not guilty on behalf of attorney and law firm charged with negligently representing start-up company and its incorporators in setting up business and pursuing corporate opportunity of one of incorporator’s former employer.  Plaintiff sought $19 million in damages in trial that lasted three weeks.  The jury’s verdict was later affirmed on appeal.  Victory Energy Operations, LLC v. Connelly, Illinois Appellate Case No. 1-09-1116 (1st Dist. 2010)
  • Obtained directed verdict after six days of jury trial on behalf of two real estate appraisers charged with breach of contract stemming from their alleged negligent appraisal of an office building.  Plaintiff, a national bank, alleged that it made a loan based on the negligent appraisal that subsequently went into default.  Case was later affirmed on appeal.  Citizens Financial Services, FSB v. Richmond, Illinois Appellate Case No. 1-05-1694 (1st Dist. 2008)
  • Successfully defended law firm charged with malpractice stemming from its representation of former client in the sale of an internet business. The former client charged that the law firm failed to provide for a “cashless exercise” of securities that were given in exchange for the business, thereby triggering a one-year holding period under applicable securities laws before the securities could be sold. After a two-week trial, a jury returned a “not guilty” verdict that was later upheld on appeal.  Ritchey v. Nations, Illinois Appellate Case No. 1-04-3889 (1st Dist. 2006)
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of Illinois attorney who was sued by purported beneficiaries of an OBRA trust set up by attorney.  The court ruled that plaintiffs did not have standing to assert their claims and that claims were barred by statute of limitations.  Roth v. Spain, Cook County Case No. 06 L 3729 (2009)
  • Obtained dismissal of defamation complaint filed against Illinois attorney who was charged to have defamed parties who were defendants in arbitration hearing.  The court ruled that the attorney’s statements were absolutely privileged.  Skender Constr. Co. v. Kubes, Cook County Case No. No. 06 L 011073 (2007)

Johnson and Bell

Johnson and Bell