Ball v. Kotter

Federal 7th Circuit Court
Civil Court
Legal Malpractice
Case Number: 
No. 12-1969
Decision Date: 
July 23, 2013
Federal District: 
N.D. Ill., E. Div.
Dist. Ct. did not err in granting motions for summary judgment by defendants-decedent’s lawyer and decedent’s ex-wife in legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty actions arising out of defendants’ conduct during sale and closing of two condominium units purchased by decedent, where plaintiffs-administrators of decedent’s estate alleged that lawyer failed to title said properties solely in decedent’s name pursuant to decedent's wishes, and that ex-wife (in her capacity as real estate agent for decedent) breached fiduciary duty by receiving commissions on sale of said properties and obtaining title to said properties after death of decedent. Dismissal of legal malpractice claim was appropriate where: (1) magistrate judge had previously barred plaintiffs from offering expert testimony on issue of applicable standard of care; and (2) expert testimony was required where lawyer’s alleged malpractice regarding her communications with decedent would not be readily apparent to lay jury. Similarly, dismissal of breach of fiduciary duty was appropriate where, although there was presumption of fraud arising out of ex-wife’s receipt of commissions and properties, said presumption was rebutted since lawyer could properly testify that decedent actually wanted ex-wife to receive properties after his death. Ct. rejected plaintiffs’ claim that presumption of fraud could never be overcome, where ex-wife admitted that she provided no consideration regarding titling of either property.