Ismaaeel Jamison (“Ismaaeel”) assaulted multiple passengers on a Chicago city bus. When police arrived, officers shot and tazed Ismaaeel before arresting him. The next month, Gloria Jamison (“Gloria”), Ismaaeel’s mother, hired attorney Steven Goldman (“Goldman”) as defense counsel for the criminal charges against her son. She alleged Goldman also agreed to handle Ismaaeel’s planned civil suit against the city for use of excessive force. In the meantime, Goldman and one of his employees allegedly assured Ismaaeel and Gloria that they had two years in which to file. However, this was only true with respect to a federal claim for deprivation of rights. A “distinctly separate” state tort claim against the City must be filed within one year. Id. at ¶20.
Nearly two years later, no civil suit having been filed, Gloria asked attorney Michelle Gonzalez (“Gonzalez”) to file a civil lawsuit against the city on Ismaaeel’s behalf. Gonzalez did so, but failed to appear for two consecutive status hearings, resulting in dismissal for want of prosecution. By then the statute of limitations for Ismaaeel’s federal claim had expired as well, and Ismaaeel never filed a motion to vacate the dismissal. Rather, he sued Goldman for malpractice for not filing a civil complaint. Goldman moved successfully for summary judgment, denying that he agreed to represent Ismaaeel in the civil suit, and that Ismaaeel “could not show any damages from this alleged malpractice because Gonzalez’s failure to pursue the §1983 case operates as a superseding cause.” Id. at ¶9.
The Appellate Court reversed, holding that Ismaaeel had presented sufficient evidence to create a question of damages insofar as he “lost his respondeat superior cause of action against the City… because Goldman did not file the complaint within one year of the incident” and “might have recovered damages… on a different cause of action” as well. Id. at ¶20. Moreover, “Gloria’s corroborated testimony sufficiently creates a material issue of fact as to whether Goldman ever agreed to file a civil complaint against the City on Ismaaeel’s behalf.” Id. at ¶23. “Even if the trier of fact finds that Goldman did not agree to file the civil complaint,” the Appellate Court added, “Goldman could still bear liability for misinforming his client that he had two years to file his civil claim, where tort claims against the City must be filed not later than one year after the date of injury.” Id.
(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)