Appellate Court Victory in Legal Malpractice Case
Pretzel & Stouffer partners Matthew J. Egan and Brendan Nelligan recently prevailed in the Illinois Appellate Court on behalf of the firm’s client, an attorney who had been sued for legal malpractice arising from his representation of a client in litigation which challenged the plaintiff’s performance of fiduciary duties as the trustee of a trust. See, 2018 IL App (1st) 171915.
The Appellate Court unanimously affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint against the attorney and his firm. The Court agreed with Matt and Brendan’s arguments that the scope of the attorney’s engagement as counsel for the plaintiff in her capacity as trustee of the trust did not impose a duty on the attorney to provide the plaintiff with any legal advice or services about a claim the plaintiff could assert to recover compensation from the trust in her individual capacity. The Appellate Court agreed with our arguments that the record established that the plaintiff as trustee was the attorney’s client and therefore, the attorney did not owe the plaintiff any duties regarding claims she could assert as an individual, distinct from her role as trustee.
The Appellate Court’s opinion is a useful addition to Illinois law regarding the duties that attorneys owe to clients based on the scope of the attorney’s engagement as counsel and how those principles apply in the frequently-litigated context of trusts and trustees.