Laurent v. Johnson

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The Third District affirmed the grant of summary judgment in a legal malpractice case.  The court held that plaintiff had no evidence that she would have been successful in the underlying case within a case but for the legal malpractice because she failed to satisfy the “discrepancy rule” for an insurance case.  The court also held that there was no evidence that the settlement of the underlying case was depressed by the alleged malpractice because the plaintiff settled her underlying case before the court dismissed it.  Thus, there was no evidence of either causation or damage.

Laurent v. Johnson, 2017 IL App (3d) 160627

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

Century-National Ins. Co. v. Schoen, 2017 IL App (1st) 163261-U

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In this unpublished opinion, the First District affirmed the dismissal of a legal malpractice claim due to plaintiff’s inability to establish that the defendant lawyer’s conduct caused damages.

The suit alleged malpractice by two separate law firms who allegedly failed to give their insurance carrier client notice that the underlying plaintiff had made a policy limit settlement demand.  The underlying personal injury case was filed against an employer and employee.  The insurance carrier retained one law firm to represent the employer and a separate law firm to represent the employee.  During the underlying litigation, the plaintiff sent letters making policy-limit settlement demands  to both law firms.  The case did not settle and the plaintiff won a large jury verdict.  Thereafter, the employer assigned its rights against the insurance carrier to the underlying plaintiff, who brought a bad faith refusal to settle lawsuit against the insurance carrier.  The bad faith complaint’s allegations mentioned only the employer’s law firm and the employee’s law firm which also received the policy limit settlement demand letter.  The carrier settled the bad faith claim and then sued both law firms for malpractice.  The court affirmed the dismissal of the malpractice claim against the law firm not named in the bad faith complaint.  Even though the insurance carrier alleged it would have known of the settlement demand sent to the employer’s law firm if the employee’s law firm had given notice of the demand it received, the court held that was insufficient to establish causation.  The court further held that the employee’s law firm could not have proximately caused the insurance carrier’s injury because only the employer assigned its claim to the underlying plaintiff who brought the bad faith claim.

Century-National Ins. Co. v. Schoen, 2017 IL App (1st) 163261-U


Developers Surety and Indemnity Co. v. Lipinski, 2017 IL App (1st) 152658-U

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In this unpublished opinion, the first district dismissed a claim because the insurance carrier that covered the losses caused by the underlying legal malpractice was the real party in interest as the subrogee of the named plaintiff, but was not named as the plaintiff in the complaint.


Westlaw – WestClip legal malpractice (002)



Illinois State Bar Assoc. Mut. Ins. Co. v. The Rex Carr Law Firm, 2017 IL App

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In this unpublished opinion, the 4th district held that misrepresentations in malpractice insurance applications did not affect the renewals of the policy; each policy is a stand-alone policy.  The court also held that if there is a possibility of covered damages, the insurer has a duty to defend.


Legal Malpractice Insurers’ Survey Shows Claims Increasing in Value and Defense Costs on the Rise

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Josh_Liebman Jan 2014 web res
Josh Liebman

By Joshua E. Liebman, Co-Editor

Ames & Gough (“A&G”) recently published the results of its fifth annual legal malpractice insurer survey. After surveying nine insurance companies that write Lawyer’s Professional Liability Insurance coverage regarding 2014 claims, A&G purports to identify: (a) the types of issues most likely to trigger malpractice claims; and (b) practice areas with the most significant claims activity. In addition, A&G’s report discusses risks that have been receiving greater scrutiny, such as those related to lateral hires and cyber security. The report also analyzes the cost of defending claims including rates paid to defense attorneys. Following is a brief summary of the survey results.

1. The frequency of legal malpractice claims remained constant in 2014. A&G concluded that the number of malpractice claims brought against law firms was flat on a year-over-year basis.

2. The dollar value of legal malpractice claims increased. Six of the nine insurers surveyed reported having more claims with reserves of $500,000 or greater in 2014 than in 2013. Six of the insurers reported claims of $20 million or more including three reporting claims of $50-$100 million and one reporting a claim exceeding $100 million.

3. Trusts and estates related claims increased while real estate related claims decreased. A majority of the insurers identified Trusts & Estates as the practice area with the most legal malpractice claims in 2014. In 2013, Real Estate led the pack. However, in 2014, Real Estate dropped to fourth with Corporate Business Organizations & Securities and Business Transactions-Commercial Law following Trusts & Estates as the three practice areas with the most claims.

4. Conflict of interest was the most frequently alleged malpractice error. Six insurers reported conflict of interest claims arising out of lateral hires or merging law firms.

5. Cyber-related malpractice claims are rising. Two insurers reported claims relating to network security events and stolen laptop computers.

6. Legal malpractice defense costs and rates paid to defense attorneys are on the rise. All nine insurers reported that the cost to defend malpractice suits increased in 2014. The cause appears to be a combination of larger and more complex claims and increased rates paid to defense counsel. Four insurers reported average hourly rates of $251-$300 while no insurers reported average rates less than $251. On the other end of the spectrum, only two insurers reported average hourly rates of $501 or greater.

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

Recent Illinois Case – Synergy Law Group, LLC. v. Ironshore Specialty Ins. Co.

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The following recent case addresses the obligation of an attorney to notify his insurer if the attorney knows that he or she made an error in a legal document:

Synergy Law Group, LLC v. Ironshore Specialty Ins. Co., 2015 IL App (1st) 142070-U.

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

Camp Point, Village of v. Cont’l Cas. Co., 219 Ill. App. 3d 86, 578 N.E.2d 1363 (4th Dist. 1991)

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Camp Point, Village of v. Cont’l Cas. Co., 219 Ill. App. 3d 86, 578 N.E.2d 1363 (4th Dist. 1991)

Abrams v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 306 Ill. App. 3d 545, 714 N.E.2d 92 (1st Dist. 1999)

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Abrams v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 306 Ill. App. 3d 545, 714 N.E.2d 92 (1st Dist. 1999) (general liability policy excluded RICO claims arising from provision of professional services)