Articles Posted in Immunity

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On June 20, 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court decided an important case, Nichols v. Fahrenkamp, 2019 IL 123990 in which it held that a guardian ad litem (a lawyer appointed by a court to represent the interests of a minor child in a divorce case) is immune from suit for conduct related to his appointment.

There have been prior decisions granting immunity where the guardian was sued by one or more parents. This case is different because it expands the immunity significantly.

Nichols essentially alleged that Fahrenkamp did not prevent Nichols’ mother from misusing money that belonged to Nichols. The court relied upon a review of the Illinois Probate Act and the Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Act as well as cases from other states:

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The case is captioned Nelson v. Quarles and Brady, LLP, 1-12-3122, Illinois Appellate Court, First District. This is probably the most important legal malpractice case decided in Illinois in 2013. The opinion is thoughtful and scholarly.

The underlying case

The underlying dispute was a contract dispute between two business partners, Kenneth Nelson and Richard Curia. The facts are exceedingly complicated and revolve around two written agreements and an oral agreement.

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McClintock v. West, Cal: Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate Dist., 3rd Div. 2013 – Google Scholar.

The Illinois courts have held that a guardian ad litem is immune from a lawsuit from one of the parties. A guardian ad litem is a lawyer appointed by the court in a family law case usually to protect the interests of a minor child. Family law litigants often become frustrated with the guardian ad litem. Here the frustrations mounted after the guardian submitted a fee petition.

This case is unusual in that the guardian was appointed to protect the interests of the plaintiff husband, who was suffering from extreme depression. Here, the plaintiff’s causes of action of negligence, fraud and legal malpractice were dismissed on the ground that the guardian ad litem was immune from suit. The court held that the negligence and fraud causes of action were barred by quasi-judicial immunity.