Orland Park, IL asked in Legal Malpractice for Illinois

Q: an attorney in a MSA negotiation fails to notify the client of a last minute change in the document.

The client then unwittingly signs the document with dire consequences.The attorney defense is that the client (a well educated person) should have noticed the (subtle) change in text. The judge agrees that it is the client's responsibility to have thoroughly read the document before signing. Is this a case of legal malpractice?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James G. Ahlberg
James G. Ahlberg
  • Legal Malpractice Lawyer
  • Rochelle, IL
  • Licensed in Illinois

A: Tough question. While it is true you should have read the document before signing it, many legal documents and the issues they address are so complex that they induce MEGO ("My Eyes Glazed Over") and significant things can be missed. When in doubt, ask your attorney, "Have any changes been made since I last read this document?" If the answer is yes, ask for a red-lined copy which specifically marks all additions or deletions from a prior version of the same document.

If the attorney specifically told you there were no changes from a prior version, or if the attorney handed you the changed version and observed you sign it without reading it yet failed to call your attention to a significant change, it may well be an instance of legal malpractice.

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