On October 24, 2022, Patterson Law Firm defeated yet another effort by legal malpractice defendants to get the claims against them dismissed. The case, filed in Cook County, Illinois, alleged that the lawyer and his firm failed to properly protect for Plaintiffs the creative rights to the life stories of certain subjects of a proposed television program. A dispute erupted over ownership of the rights and in resulting litigation, a court held that Plaintiffs had not properly protected the creative rights and they therefore belonged to others. Plaintiffs then sued Defendants for malpractice.
Defendants moved to dismiss the malpractice complaint, arguing that the case was barred by the statute of limitations and the statute of repose. In Illinois, a legal malpractice claim must be brought within two years of when the Plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury and that it was wrongfully caused (statute of limitations). In no event, however, can a malpractice claim be brought in Illinois more than six years after the malpractice occurred (statute of repose).
Plaintiffs alleged that they were not aware that their creative rights had not been properly protected until a date within the two-year statute of limitations period prior to filing their complaint. The court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss under the statute of limitations, finding that Defendants had not submitted adequate evidence establishing when Plaintiffs knew or should have known of the failure to protect their creative rights.
Defendants argued that since the operating agreement drafted by them for the venture was signed more than six years prior to the filing of the malpractice case, the claim was barred by the statute of repose. The court denied the motion on this basis as well, holding that Plaintiffs alleged the malpractice occurred not in the drafting of the operating agreement, but in failures stemming from noncompliance with the agreement, so the drafting of the operating agreement was not the triggering event for the statute of repose.
The court also rejected Defendants’ attack on the complaint contending Plaintiffs had not adequately alleged that the malpractice proximately caused Plaintiffs’ injuries. The court rejected this argument, holding that the issue of proximate causation in a legal malpractice case is generally an issue of fact to be decided at trial.
If you think you may have a claim for legal malpractice but think too much time may have passed for you to pursue the claim, contact Kristi L. Browne, firstname.lastname@example.org, to help you determine whether you still have time to file your claim.