No Advice, No Causation

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Various members of the Nelson family attempted to transfer business and personal assets among themselves so as to substitute one party for another in the Nelson Family Farms, LLC (“LLC”). Plaintiffs Brian and Rebecca Nelson drafted the contract controlling these transactions, which consisted of “handwriting on two sides of a single sheet of paper.” Id. at ¶2. Without consulting an attorney or exercising due diligence, the parties began exchanging money and equipment. Id. One of the parties, Doug Nelson, retained attorney Bruce Carmen (“Carmen”) and the Carmen Law Office, P.C. (“Carmen Law”) to complete the title work necessary to transfer certain parcels of real estate contemplated in the contract and to effectuate the substitution of members in the LLC.

After a dispute arose, Brian and Rebecca sued Carmen and Carmen Law for legal malpractice, claiming to be “clients of Carmen or intended beneficiaries of his services.” Id. at ¶45. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Carmen and Carmen Law, and Brian and Rebecca appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed, explaining that the plaintiffs could not prove the proximate causation necessary in a legal malpractice claim. It pointed to the fact that “Carmen did not give Brian and Rebecca any legal advice that they relied on in making their decisions.” Id. at ¶47. Brian and Rebecca also claimed that Carmen did not request a copy of the underlying contract, meaning his representation was legally deficient. However, the Appellate Court countered that the contract, which was drafted before Carmen was retained, “contained no mention” of the point of contention and so “would not have alerted Carmen” to the issue. Id. at ¶48. Having found Carmen was not the proximate cause of Brian and Rebecca’s damages, the Appellate Court added that any allegation as to a conflict of interest was without merit. Id. at ¶49.

Nelson v. Nelson, 2020 IL App (3d) 190080-U

Illinois Legal Malpractice and Defense of Lawyers Blog — Novack and Macey LLP

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

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