• Illinois Appellate Court Holds That Two-Year Statute of Limitations Applies to Aiding and Abetting Claims Against Lawyers
  • September 24, 2013
  • Law Firm: Williams Montgomery John Ltd. - Chicago Office
  • In an important decision for the defense of lawyers and law firms in Illinois, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, held that the two-year statute of limitations in Section 13-214.3 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure - not the longer five-year statute of limitations - applies to aiding and abetting claims against lawyers that are connected to their performance of legal services.

    In 800 South Wells Commercial LLC v. Horwood Marcus & Berk Chtd., 2013 IL App (1st) 123660, the Court interpreted Section 13-214.3 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, which includes a two-year statute of limitations for actions “based on tort, contract, or otherwise . . . against an attorney arising out of an act or omission in the performance of professional services.”

    We represented the defendants and the Court agreed with our argument and rejected contrary Illinois precedent that had limited the application of Section 13-214.3 to "legal malpractice claims by clients." Instead, the Court held that the two-year statute of limitations in Section 13-214.3 is not so limited and instead applies to all claims against an attorney arising out of acts or omissions in the performance of professional services. Because the claims at issue were based on the attorney's advice, negotiations and drafting of documents, the Court held that Section 13-214.3 applied and barred plaintiff's claims.

    The 800 South Wells Opinion is important because it is the first of its kind to find that Section 13-214.3 is not limited to malpractice actions by clients, and that an alleged aiding and abetting can arise out of the performance of professional services. Because the ruling is contrary to the Fourth District’s Opinion in Ganci v. Blauvelt, 294 Ill. App. 3d 508 (4th Dist. 1998), an arguable split in the districts currently exists necessary for the Illinois Supreme Court to resolve.

    Interestingly, in Evanston Ins. Co. v. Riseborough, No. 114271,the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this year to review an unpublished appellate court ruling that found that the time limits in Section 13-214.3 are narrowly limited to claims by clients for malpractice. A decision is expected any day and we suggest the more recent and more pointed 800 South Wells decision -- that follows the statutory language and offers greater protection for lawyers and law firms in Illinois -- should carry greater weight and influence the Illinois Supreme Court. We'll keep you posted.