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03/31/97 SAL CIRRINCIONE v. MICHAEL JOHNSON

March 31, 1997

SAL CIRRINCIONE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MICHAEL JOHNSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Charles Wilhelm, Judge Presiding.

Rehearing Denied April 25, 1997. Released for Publication May 12, 1997.

Presiding Justice Greiman delivered the opinion of the court. Zwick, J., and Quinn, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greiman

PRESIDING JUSTICE GREIMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Sal Cirrincione (plaintiff) brought this action to recover $3,700 in damages from Michael Johnson (defendant), an attorney, representing the value of chiropractic services rendered to defendant's injured client, Gil Johnson (Johnson). Following a jury trial, a verdict was entered in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $15,800, including punitive damages. Defendant argues on appeal that plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable cause of action pursuant to the Physicians' Lien Act (the Act) (770 ILCS 80/01 (West 1994)) or alternative, common law remedies, and that, in any event, punitive damages are not assessable in this genre of cases. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

In December 1985, Johnson was injured in an automobile accident. Johnson subsequently received chiropractic services from plaintiff in May 1986. At the same time, Johnson retained Lawrence Fox (Fox) to represent him in a suit against the driver of the other vehicle.

While Johnson's personal injury suit was pending, plaintiff and Fox discussed how and when plaintiff would be paid for the services provided to Johnson. Fox advised plaintiff to file a physician's lien pursuant to the Act. Plaintiff procured a form from an associate that was to be signed by Johnson, the patient/client, authorizing plaintiff to provide Johnson's attorney with a report of "his examination, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis" in connection with "an accident in which [Johnson] was recently involved." The document also authorized the attorney to pay the plaintiff for medical services directly out of any settlement or judgment.

Perhaps even more significant is the following provision:

"And I hereby further give a Lien on my case to said doctor against any and all proceeds of my settlement, judgment or verdict which may be paid to you, my attorney, or myself, as the result of the injuries in connection therewith."

Additionally, the document provides:

"I hereby instruct that in the event another attorney is substituted in this matter, the new attorney honor this lien as inherent to the settlement and enforceable upon the case as if it were executed by him."

Fox assured plaintiff that this form would be adequate to ensure his right to payment.

Shortly thereafter, Fox received appointment to the circuit court of Cook County and referred the case to defendant. Several months later, plaintiff called Fox and learned that defendant was now representing Johnson. Plaintiff testified that during a subsequent telephone conversation with defendant, defendant found the document and stated that "everything was okay."

Judge Fox testified that he discussed the lien with defendant and advised defendant of plaintiff's expectation to be paid from any settlement funds. Fox further testified that defendant "agreed" that the lien was "valid," although on cross-examination Fox stated ...


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