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Gale v. Williams

August 31, 1998

RUTH GALE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF DENNIS GALE, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DICK L. WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Slater, J., Breslin and Holdridge, J.j., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell County, Illinois,

No. 97--L--24

Honorable Donald C. Courson, Judge, Presiding.

Plaintiff Ruth Gale, mother of decedent Dennis Gale, brought a legal malpractice claim against defendant attorney Dick Williams, who represented decedent in a divorce proceeding. Plaintiff's complaint alleged that defendant was negligent in his representation of Dennis Gale. Count I was brought by Ruth Gale, individually, and count II was brought by Ruth Gale in her capacity as administrator of the estate of Dennis Gale. The court granted defendant Williams' motion to dismiss and found that plaintiff's count I failed to state a claim for legal malpractice and count II was time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiff appeals.

FACTS

Defendant Dick Williams represented Dennis Gale, deceased, in a divorce proceeding between Dennis and his then wife, Mary Gale. A decree for divorce was entered on March 24, 1994. Dennis Gale died intestate on May 29, 1995, and his mother became administrator of his estate.

Plaintiff's allegations of legal malpractice stem from an "All Benefits Plan" beneficiary designation form, dated September 26, 1985, and signed by Dennis Gale, in which Dennis Gale designated beneficiaries for certain employer-provided plans, including group life insurance, employee thrift and a pension/ retirement plan. Mary Gale is the primary beneficiary and Ruth Gale is designated as the contingent beneficiary.

It is undisputed that defendant had no knowledge of the "All Benefits Plan" form. Dennis Gale knew of the existence of the form and he signed the divorce decree, which contained no provisions requiring any change in the beneficiary designations of the employer-provided plans. The qualified domestic relations orders (QDRO's), prepared by defendant after the entry of judgment of dissolution, as well as other post-divorce correspondence between defendant and decedent's employer, did not involve a change of beneficiaries for any employer-provided plan.

Plaintiff alleges however, that, as part of defendant's representation of the deceased in the divorce proceedings, defendant was obligated to change the beneficiary designation to name her, Ruth Gale, as the primary beneficiary to the employer-sponsored plans. Additionally, as administrator of the estate of Dennis Gale, plaintiff claims that defendant had a duty to name the estate as the primary beneficiary to the employer-provided plans.

Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the basis that Ruth Gale, individually, lacked standing to bring a legal malpractice claim, and that the estate's claim was time-barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The trial court granted defendant's motion and dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. We affirm.

ANALYSIS

In resolving a motion to dismiss, a court must assume that all well-pleaded facts are true and may consider all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts. Williams v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 222 Ill. App. 3d 559, 584 N.E.2d 257 (1991). Mere conclusions of law and unsupported Conclusions of fact are not to be considered. Gilbert Brothers, Inc. v. Gilbert, 258 Ill. App. 3d 395, 630 N.E.2d 189 (1994). A motion to dismiss should only be granted where it clearly appears that no set of facts can be proved which will entitle plaintiff to recover. Ogle v. Fuiten, 102 Ill. ...


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