The Illinois Statute of Repose bars claims against a lawyer arising out of actions that occurred more than six years before the case was filed. In this case, an insurance company (Evanston) sued two lawyers and alleged that the lawyer defendants wrongfully entered into a settlement agreement on behalf of Evanston’s insured.
The lawyer defendants moved to dismissed based upon the Statute of Repose. (735 ILCS 5/13-214.3 (West 2008). The trial court granted the motion, but the Illinois Appellate Court reversed. It held that the statute of repose did not apply because Evanston was not a client of the lawyer defendants.
The Illinois Supreme Court, in turn, reversed and held that the Statute of Repose applies to any claim against a lawyer arising out of the lawyer’s professional services.
The Court explained:
“¶ 19 The appellate court’s conclusion that section 13-214.3 applies only to a claim asserted by a client of the attorney is contrary to the plain language expressed in the statute. There is nothing in section 13-214.3 that requires the plaintiff to be a client of the attorney who rendered the professional services. The statute does not refer to a “client” nor does it place any restrictions on who may bring an action against an attorney. The statute simply provides that an action for damages against an attorney “arising out of an act or omission in the performance of professional services” is subject to the six-year repose period. Thus, under the express language of the statute, it is the nature of the act or omission, rather than the identity of the plaintiff, that determines whether the statute of repose applies to a claim brought against an attorney…
The complaint alleged damages to Evanston based on defendant’s actions in executing the agreement in the absence of Kiferbaum’s authorization. Thus, under the plain, unambiguous language of the statute, Evanston’s claims in its second amended complaint “arose out of” defendants’ actions “in the performance of professional services” on behalf of Kiferbaum, defendants’ client. We hold that the statute of repose in section 13-214.3(c) applies to Evanston’s second amended complaint, which was properly dismissed as time-barred pursuant to the statute.”
This case brings clarity to the law.
One final note. On June 7, 2012, I wrote an article in which I argued that the Appellate Court’s decision was erroneous:
“Comment: This is a highly controversial decision that should be heard by the Illinois Supreme Court.
The opinion should have been published as a matter of course so that those who follow these issues could comment on it.
My view is that the holding of the panel is erroneous. These lawyers were doing legal work, defending their client from a claim. They signed an agreement as agents of the client. Later, the client and the insurance company threw the lawyers under the bus and the insurer brought a claim against them. Since the lawyers were doing legal work, they are entitled to the protections of the Statute of Repose. They should be protected and the case should be dismissed. This is, in my view, an easy case for the Illinois Supreme Court. It cries out for review.”
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.