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Law Firm Had A Duty To Notify Probate Court of Client’s Disability

In Estate of Christo v. Law Offices of Thomas Leahy, 2021 IL App (1st) 200575-U, the Appellate Court reversed the entry of judgment in favor of a law firm in a legal malpractice case filed by the Public Guardian. The Leahy Firm had represented Barbara Rose Christo, Peter Christo and Fay Christo in a wrongful death action arising out of the death of their father, Thomas Christo.

The case settled and each plaintiff received approximately $550,000. The complaint alleged that Peter Christo misappropriated the funds belonging to his sister, Barbara, who was disabled. The legal malpractice complaint alleged that the Law Firm was aware that Barbara had significant intellectual disabilities but it failed to seek a guardianship for Barbara or otherwise protect her interest in her share of the settlement funds.

After a bench trial the trial court ruled in favor of the Law Firm on all claims holding that the Law Firm met the duty of care and that Barbara could not prove proximate causation. Barbara appealed on several grounds. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment on the ground that the trial court had misstated the evidence, in particular the testimony of a Doctor who testified that Barbara was disabled.

The court held that there was sufficient evidence introduced in the record that Barbara was disabled, the Law Firm should have known she was disabled and that the Law Firm had a duty to inform the trial court of Barbara’s disability.

Comment: this case is significant as it makes it clear that a law firm has a duty to inform the court if its client has an intellectual disability.

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