A woman will not be able to sue her divorce attorney for allegedly mishandling her divorce case, as a state appeals panel found she did not file suit until long after she had expressed frustration with her lawyer.
Anne Anderson sued her divorce attorney, Denise Kuzniewski, for malpractice, claiming Kuzniewski had failed to properly investigate Anderson's husband's finances. Anderson said this alleged failure led to an unjust settlement.
Kuzniewski was granted summary judgment in trial court in McHenry County, which ruled the lawsuit was time barred.
Anderson appealed to the Illinois Second District Appellate Court, arguing that after first receiving official legal advice in January 2016 of a credible claim of malpractice, she filed suit in December of that year, well within the two year statute of limitations.
The appeals panel disagreed, with Justice Robert McLaren delivering the judgment and Justices Joseph Birkett and Robert Spence concurring in the judgment.
Anderson first consulted an attorney as early as October 2011 because she “'knew [the settlement] was not right,'" according to the appeals court ruling.
At that meeting, she discussed with the lawyer filing an action on maintenance payments and possible damages for legal malpractice. The lawyer did not give an opinion.
In January 2016, she received an opinion that malpractice had happened and filed suit on Dec. 21, 2016.
The question the appeals court had to decide was whether Anderson knew or should have reasonably known that she was injured prior to Dec. 21, 2014.
The appeals court agreed with the defendant that the period when the clock starts is when a plaintiff "knows enough to believe reasonably that an injury was wrongfully caused."
"We agree with defendant that, as a matter of law, plaintiff’s duty of inquiry arose long before December 21, 2014," McLaren said.
The judgment was issued as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as precedent.