In Carlson v. Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP, 2021 IL App (1st) 191961, the plaintiff alleged malpractice relating to a multitude of underlying matters, including underlying legal malpractice matters. One of the allegations was that certain defendants failed to advise of the statutes of limitations against potential defendants. The Appellate Court analyzed the case under 735 ILCS 5/13-214.3(c), the statute of repose, which provides that claims against lawyers “may not be commenced more than six years after the date on which the act or omission occurred.” Because the actions occurred more than six year before the filing of the complaint, the Court found that the complaint was untimely. The Court was also unconvinced that subsequent engagements by the defendant had any effect on the timeliness of the case as, while continuing wrongful acts may in certain circumstances permit otherwise untimely actions to be brought, sporadic representation of the sort engaged in by the defendants did not suffice. Finally, the Court noted that there was no duty for the defendant to affirmatively tell the plaintiff that it committed malpractice.
In Dema v. O’Hara, 2021 IL App (1st) 201003-U, the plaintiff brought a claim for legal malpractice more than six years after a judgment for dissolution of marriage and QILDRO were entered in a divorce matter. The Appellate Court found that the claims were therefore barred by the statute of repose because the last act or omission on which the claims were founded took place more than six years before filing. The fact that representation took place after this time did not affect the analysis, as the malpractice was not based on such subsequent representation.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has also recently found a legal malpractice case untimely, finding that the case was barred by the statute of limitations. In Short v. Grayson, 16-cv-2150, the Plaintiff was informed more than two years before the filing of legal malpractice case that his prior case was dismissed. In many circumstances, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until at least there is an adverse judgment in the underlying matter, and in many it is the adverse judgment itself that starts the statute. As Judge Seeger said, that is the time when “the clock often starts ticking.”
These cases serve as a further reminder that timeliness is critical in legal malpractice cases, as the consequences of dismissal can be harsh for untimely cases.