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District Court Analyzes Damages Available In a Malpractice Case

Generally, in Illinois, the successful plaintiff in a legal malpractice action can recover from the lawyer the same damages that he could recover in the underlying case. So, in a personal injury case, the plaintiff can recover (a) economic damages, such as medical bills and lost wages and (b) pain and suffering damages. If a lawyer causes the plaintiff to lose a valid claim, the plaintiff should be able to recover the same damages from the lawyer.  In Webster Bank v. Pierce & Associates, P.C., 16-cv2522, (2-19-2020) the district court held that a plaintiff bank can recover prejudgment interest in a legal malpractice claim against its former lawyer.

The underlying case was a collection action on a promissory note. The opinion does not describe the act of legal malpractice. The defendant law firm filed a motion in limine to bar the bank from seeking pre-judgment interest. The court denied the motion because the bank (had it been successful in the underlying case) could have obtained the same prejudgment interest.  The pertinent discussion follows:

Here, Webster alleges Pierce’s malpractice in a suit-on-note claim against Kristen Jasinski caused its damage. According to Webster, had Pierce been successful in the underlying suit-on-note claim, Webster would have been entitled to a judgment in the amount of the principle of the note plus interest from the date of Jasinski’s default to the date of judgment under the terms of Jasinski’s loan agreement or the Illinois Interest Act, 815 ILCS 205/2. (Dkt. 182, Ex. 1, p. 3) (finance charge calculated by applying the periodic interest rate to the Daily Balance of the loan); 815 ILCS 205/2 (“Creditors shall be allowed to receive at the rate of five (5) per centum per annum for all moneys after they become due on any … promissory note … In the absence of an agreement between the creditor and debtor governing interest charges, upon 30 days’ written notice to the debtor, an assignee or agent of the creditor may charge and collect interest as provided in this Section on behalf of a creditor.”). Webster asserts that the

prejudgment interest Webster could have recovered under the terms of the loan agreement or the Illinois Interest Act from Ms. Jasinski is directly analogous to the statutory interest the Supreme Court of Illinois allowed the legal malpractice plaintiff in Goldfine to recover under the Illinois Securities Law. In both cases, the interest is part of the remedial relief that would have been recovered in the underlying actions had the defendants not negligently failed to preserve the claims.(Dkt. 182, p. 3) The Court agrees with Webster. As a matter of law, the prejudgment interest Webster seeks to recover under the loan agreement or the Illinois Interest Act is a component of the remedial relief that Webster would have recovered if Webster prevailed on its underlying suit-on-note claim. Accordingly, Tri-G is inapplicable, and Webster is entitled to recover prejudgment interest.

The opinion of District Judge Rowland can be found at the link below.

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