Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment Based on Statute of Limitations

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The First District reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in a legal malpractice case that had been based on the statute of limitations and statute of repose.

Clients sued their lawyers for legal malpractice in connection with advice related to litigation regarding the propriety of a mortgage lien on their residence.   Allegedly, poor advice led the clients to reject settlement offers, and they were injured when an adverse judgment was entered against them. 

The lawyers moved for summary judgment.  The trial court found that clients had been injured when they entered into a forbearance agreement in 2009 and that they  learned of the alleged malpractice in February 2012 when the learned that a lien had been recorded on their residence.  Therefore, their August 2016 complaint was barred by the two year statute of limitations.  Alternatively, the court held that the six year statute of repose barred the action because the negligence occurred in 2009.  The Appellate Court reversed.  It found that plaintiffs’ claims did not accrue in 2012, when they became aware of the mortgage lien, but in 2015, when an adverse judgment was entered against them.  The Court further held that the statue of repose was triggered in 2012, not 2009, by lawyers efforts to remove the lien commenced.   The Court held that, even if the statute of repose began to run in 2009, it was equitably tolled by the lawyers’ conduct.  In particular, the lawyers reassured the plaintiffs “at every turn” that their position was correct.

Louis Hermansen and Cheryl Hermansen v. James J. Riebandt, Lee F. DeWald, Lester A. Ottenheimer, III, 2020 IL App. (1st) 191735, September 30, 2020

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)

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