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Legal Malpractice Claim Revived By Illinois Appellate Court

Bielfeldt v. Graves, 2021 IL App (3d) 200118-U, should be a published opinion. In any event, it stands for the proposition that a legal malpractice claim was timely under the federal savings statute. Here a timely legal malpractice claim was filed in federal court. The federal court dismissed that claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Bielfeldt re-filed the claim within one year of the dismissal by the federal court.

¶ 17 Bielfeldt argues that the malpractice claim was timely filed under the savings statute, section 13-217 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/13-217 (West 1994)). Under that provision, if the action is dismissed by a federal district court for lack of jurisdiction then, “whether or not the time limitation for bringing such action expires during the pendency of such action, the plaintiff*** may commence a new action within one year or within the remaining period of limitation, whichever is greater.” Id. This section only applies, though, when a plaintiff has initially filed suit in a timely manner, and the original statute of limitations has not expired before that action was ever filed. Leffler v. Engler, Zoghlin & Mann, Ltd., 157 Ill. App. 3d 718, 723-24 (1987).

¶ 18 Graves does not dispute that the state court complaint was filed within one year of dismissal from the federal court. However, Graves argues that Bielfeldt first asserted allegations of legal malpractice arising from the “Major Event” in the third amended complaint in federal court, which was not filed until August 3, 2016, after the statute of limitations would have expired according to Graves. The pleadings in the court below, however, allege that Bielfeldt did not receive a letter until on or about January 23, 2015, indicating the shares of stock to Graves that allegedly diluted his ownership interest. For purposes of a motion to dismiss, Bielfeldt sufficiently pled a legal malpractice claim against Graves that was filed within two years of when Bielfeldt allegedly knew or reasonably should have known of his injury. Thus, the legal malpractice claim survives as timely filed pursuant to the savings statute and we reverse the dismissal of count VII and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings as to count VII.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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