In a recent decision, the First District Appellate Court of Illinois rejected a legal malpractice action brought against an estate’s former attorneys. In the underlying case, the estate’s attorneys brought a wrongful death action on the behalf of the estate of Willie Taylor. Taylor had been unloading his truck when another truck backed into him causing his death.
During the wrongful death trial a pharmacologist opined that at the time of Taylor’s death he had between 10 to 20 times the amount of morphine that would be in a patient experiencing moderate pain. Defendants argued that Taylor was impaired during the accident and therefore was also partly to blame for his own death. The jury awarded the estate $3 million in the underlying case; but it was cut in half due their finding that Taylor was also 50% at fault. The estate’s attorneys initially filed a notice of appeal but voluntarily withdrew it in order to keep the $1.5 million judgment intact.
The plaintiffs alleged that this withdrawal was legal malpractice because it would have won the remaining $1.5 million by way of a successful appeal. From their perspective, the plaintiffs believed that the pharmacologist’s testimony should have been barred as more prejudicial then probative and, that the jury’s finding that Taylor was partly to blame was against the manifest weight of evidence.
Ultimately the court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments and ruled that they failed to establish proximate cause. It held that the trial court’s “decision to admit or not admit expert testimony of impairment based solely upon the presence of narcotics in an individual’s blood should be informed by the level of narcotics in his blood.” Since Taylor had a high-level of morphine in him at the time of his death, the jury should be allowed to consider whether it played a role in his death. Therefore, because the pharmacologist’s statements were properly admitted, the panel also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the jury’s finding that Taylor was also to blame for his death was against the manifest weight of evidence.
Kia Rashiki Logan, et al. v. U.S. Bank, et al., 2016 IL App (1st) 152549
Alex Passo and Patterson Law Firm, LLC handle legal malpractice actions and commercial litigation throughout Illinois and Indiana. Alex can be reached at (312) 750-1820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.