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Can an estate file a lawsuit without retaining a lawyer as counsel of record? The Sixth Circuit has held that it can if the pro se litigant (not a lawyer) is the sole beneficiary of the estate. The Court explained that if a creditor had a claim against the estate, the pro se beneficiary would not be allowed to proceed. The sole beneficiary can proceed pro se because no other parties have a financial interest in the outcome. The case is captioned Bass v. Leatherwood, 14-6321 (6th Cir. 2015).

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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The case is captioned USF Holland, Inv. v. Radogno, Cameli and Hoag, P.C., Illinois Appellate Court, First District, 2014. The case arose out of an underlying personal injury case in which Holland was sued for damages after one of its trucks collided with a car in Indiana. The Radogno firm obtained summary judgment in the trial court and the Appellate Court affirmed.

The plaintiff, Keppen, sued Holland in Cook County. Holland hired the Radogno firm which filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens. Radogno explained that its strategy was to obtain a dismissal of the case, which would require the plaintiff to refile the case in Indiana. Radogno explained that Indiana juries typically awarded less money than did juries in Cook County, Illinois.

Unfortunately for Holland, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss and the Appellate Court affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss. That meant that the litigation would remain in Cook County.

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In a recent decision, Bluestein v. Central Wisconsin Anesthesiology, S.C., Nos. 13-3724, 14-1256 and 14-1257, the Seventh Circuit upheld the dismissal of Bluestein’s claim that she was wrongly terminated in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 12101, et seq. and other civil rights statutes.

The problem with the claim was that Bluestein was an owner of the practice and even voted on her own termination. There was and is well-settled law that owners cannot sue under the ADA or other civil rights statutes.

The district court found that “the undisputed facts demonstrated that Bluestein was an employer rather than an employee; … that she did not demonstrate that she was disabled within the meaning of the ADA because she produced no evidence of a substantial limitation in a major life activity; ..”

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Last week I gave a presentation on Avoiding Legal Malpractice in Family Law Matters at the Chicago Bar Association Family Law Committee. Thanks to my host, Mallory O’Connor, and Stephanie Capps for help with the presentation.

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This is a legal malpractice case in which the plaintiff, after enormous effort, obtained a damages award of $2000 at trial. The Appellate Court affirmed the damage award.  Unfortunately, the Appellate Court issued an unpublished opinion, Hubertus Investment Group v. Smiegelski & Wator, P.C., 2014 IL App (1st) 131927-U. This case is an example of a case where there may have been negligence, but the damages were minimal.

On May 7, 2009, Hubertus entered into a contract to purchase 12 vacant properties in Chicago, Illinois, from Dragan Radojcic for the sum of $190,000. The closing was scheduled for June 1, 2009. Hubertus alleged that the lawyer defendants were negligent because they failed to secure water certificates from the City of Chicago and because they failed to obtain title to a lot at 4407 West Fulton in Chicago, Illinois. The Fulton lot was appraised at a value of $2000. The water certificate (when obtained) proves that the water bill of the City of Chicago has been paid.

Hubertus also alleged a breach of title commitment against Chicago Title. However, on January 23, 2013, CTIC “produced, executed and recorded quitclaim deeds encompassing 11 of the 12 properties; the remaining property at 4407 West Fulton had been sold for taxes.” The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of Chicago Title. The case proceeded to trial against the lawyer defendants.

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Hospital Sues Law Firm For Losses Related To Lehman Brothers

PASSAVANT MEMORIAL AREA HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION v. LANCASTER POLLARD & CO., Dist. Court, CD Illinois 2013 – Google Scholar.

This is a case alleging legal malpractice in the context of corporate law. Passavant Memorial Hospital has sued a law firm that allegedly provided negligent legal advice concerning a commercial transaction. The Hospital, acting on advice of the lawyers, attempted to terminate a bond interest swap. The notice of termination was sent by fax, not by regular mail. Lehman Brothers claimed it had no record of receiving notice. Litigation ensued and the Hospital was required to pay $2,975,000 to settle the litigation.  The lawyers were negligent because they sent the termination notice by fax, instead of by mail.

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