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Heather Patterson, et al v. Lane & Lane

November 30, 2011

HEATHER PATTERSON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LANE & LANE, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' partial motion for summary judgment is granted and Defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Heather Patterson (Heather) was born in 1995. She was allegedly delivered by Rhonda Williams, M.D. (Williams) at Alexian Brothers Medical Center (Alexian). Williams and Alexian's staff were allegedly negligent in overseeing the birth, and as a result, Heather suffered various injuries including Erb's Palsy. Heather's parents, Plaintiff Ray Patterson and Plaintiff Deanna Patterson, hired Defendant Stephen Lane (Lane) at Defendant Lane & Lane, LLC in order to file a medical malpractice suit on Heather's behalf against Alexian and Williams for the injuries resulting from the circumstances of their daughter's birth. Plaintiffs allegedly contacted Defendants about representation in October 2001.

According to Plaintiffs, Lane did not file a suit (Medical Malpractice Action) until March 12, 2003, two days after the 8-year Illinois statute of repose had lapsed. Plaintiffs contend that due to Defendants' negligence, the Medical Malpractice Action proceeded slowly over the next five years. Lane allegedly convinced Plaintiffs to bring a new claim contending that Heather was without the intellectual capacity to understand that she possessed a claim in order to avoid the statute of limitations bar.

On April 16, 2008, Defendants allegedly were allowed by the state court to dismiss the Medical Malpractice Action with leave to reinstate within one-year. In early 2009, Lane allegedly pressured Plaintiffs to settle the case before the one year reinstatement deadline. Lane allegedly negotiated a settlement with Alexian and Williams for $170,000 and Plaintiffs agreed to and accepted this settlement offer based on the recommendation of Lane. However, Plaintiffs then hired new counsel and they discovered that the settlement amount was much less than they would have been able to recover if Lane had brought the Malpractice Action in a timely fashion.

Plaintiffs also claim that they discovered that Defendants did not efficiently proceed in the Malpractice Action, costing Plaintiffs excessive amounts of legal fees. Plaintiffs acknowledge that their new counsel ultimately finalized the settlement for $170,000.

Plaintiffs brought the instant action against Defendants and include in their complaint legal malpractice claims (Count I), and breach of fiduciary duty claims (Count II). Plaintiffs now move for partial summary judgment on the issue of whether Defendants breached the standard of care by failing to initiate the Medical Malpractice Action within the 8-year statute of repose. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). When there are cross motions for summary judgment, the court should "construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made." Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiffs' Partial Motion for Summary Judgment

Plaintiffs move for summary judgment on the issue of negligence. Plaintiffs contend that the failure by Defendants to file the Medical Malpractice Action on or before March 10, 2003 was negligent. Defendants argue that there is not sufficient evidence that shows that ...


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