Brief Fact Summary. This case arose from a dispute between a lawyer and a client in which the client sued the lawyer under contract and tort theories.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. "[A] complaint against a lawyer for professional malpractice may be couched in either contract or tort and that recovery may be sought in the alternative."
A plaintiff seeking to recover purely economic losses due to defeated expectations of a commercial bargain cannot recover in tort, regardless of the plaintiff's inability to recover under an action in contract.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Should attorney malpractice cases proceed under a contract or a tort theory?
Held. "[A] complaint against a lawyer for professional malpractice may be couched in either contract or tort and that recovery may be sought in the alternative." The court stated that their "ruling is grounded on historical precedent rather than logic." Also, "[l]ogic may be a face card but custom is a trump." "If something has been handled in a certain way for a long period of time and if people are familiar with the practice and accustomed to its use, it is reasonable to continue with that practice until and unless good cause is shown to change the rule." The court agreed with the reasoning in [Moorman Manufacturing Co. v. National Tank Co.] but did not follow its ruling. It recognized differences between contract and tort law, but specified that its ruling "neither changes the duties a lawyer owes his client, nor does it change the circumstances under which a lawyer may be sued for malpractice, nor does it change the damages recoverable. We merely restate the long standing Illinois practice in this matter.
Discussion. Although the purposes underlying contract and tort law are different, certain behavior can be prosecuted under both theories.