Illinois Appellate Court Discusses Duty of Guardian Ad Litem in Lawsuit Alleging Negligence and Misuse of Settlement Proceeds from a Personal Injury Action

Knowing the best way to protect your legal rights following an accident can be daunting. This is why most people turn to a seasoned Chicago personal injury lawyer to learn more about their options and how to secure the outcome that they deserve during a difficult and traumatic situation.Legal News Gavel

In a recent appellate opinion, an Illinois court considered a case brought by a plaintiff alleging that her attorney mishandled the dispensation of funds obtained from a personal injury lawsuit on her behalf when she was a minor. The plaintiff received $600,000 in a settlement for injuries that she sustained, and her mother was appointed the guardian of her estate. The attorney was appointed as the plaintiff’s guardian ad litem. In 2012, the plaintiff sued her mother, alleging that she spent funds from the settlement that were not used for the plaintiff’s benefit, totaling nearly $80,000. The attorney was not named as a defendant in this action.

The court ultimately entered an award in the plaintiff’s interest but limited the damages on the basis that the plaintiff had a guardian ad litem who was supposed to be monitoring the mother’s withdrawals from the settlement account. The plaintiff next filed a lawsuit against the guardian ad litem, alleging that the attorney allowed the mother to misuse the settlement funds for her own benefit. She alleged that the attorney did not meet or even speak with the plaintiff while he was acting as guardian ad litem and that he did not verify whether the mother’s withdrawal statements were accurate.

The defendants responded by filing a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the attorney had quasi-judicial immunity while acting as a guardian ad litem in a probate proceeding. The attorney contended that he had met with the plaintiff and that she had made no attempt to contact him. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, noting that Illinois law had not addressed the question of whether a guardian ad litem could invoke immunity while acting under such circumstances.

The plaintiff appealed, and the reviewing court agreed with her assignments of error. Specifically, the appellate court noted that the trial court erred in granting the motion based on the quasi-judicial immunity argument because the order that appointed the attorney as guardian ad litem lacked specific directions. Under the defendant’s reasoning, the guardian ad litem had no independent duty to the plaintiff, which would render the appointment an “empty gesture.” Illinois law makes it clear that the duty of a guardian ad litem is to assess the rights of his or her ward and to exercise care and prudence in managing the ward’s affairs.

If you are dealing with a legal dispute arising from a personal injury case, it is critical that you seek knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel. We have guided many individuals and families through the legal process while ensuring that they understand the full scope of their rights. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation, so call us at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.

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