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Illinois Court Rejects Claim That Husband’s Legal Malpractice Claim Was Marital Property

This is, unfortunately, an unpublished opinion, In re Marriage of Elizabeth W. Nesbitt and Bruce M. Nesbitt, 2014 IL App (1st) 131825-U.

After the parties divorce reached judgment, Bruce brought a legal malpractice action against his former lawyers for errors he alleged caused him to incur economic damages. Elizabeth then brought a Rule to Show Cause against Bruce on the ground that he had failed to pay her a share of the settlement. She alleged that the legal malpractice claim was marital property.

The court reasoned that Bruce did not discover the cause of action against his lawyers until the judgment of dissolution of marriage was entered. Therefore, the settlement was not marital property and Elizabeth did not have a valid claim to a share of the settlement proceeds.

It seems inherently bizarre to claim that the attorney-client relationship between Husband and his attorney was marital property. Husband’s attorney was retained to protect the rights of Husband and not the rights of Wife. The attorney-client relationship is personal to Husband. The attorney for one spouse is not attempting to confer a benefit on the marital estate. ¬†What a pity that this important issue did not result in a published opinion.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

There is an older opinion involving the Nesbitt.