Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder wants appellate judges to decide whether an attorney-client relationship existed between the Lakin Law Firm and a woman whose injury claim the firm chose not to pursue.
Crowder on Aug. 23 certified questions to the Fifth District in Mount Vernon about the firm's dealings with Suzanne Krause of Tennessee.
The Fifth District's answers will determine whether Krause can seek damages from the Lakins on a claim of legal malpractice.
Krause claims that as a minor, Suzanne Topps suffered an injury in 2002 when a tree limb fell on her leg.
Her family contacted the Lakins about filing a personal injury suit.
In 2004 Brad Lakin sent the family a letter stating, "After reviewing the information that we have we believe that the case would be extremely difficult to prove."
He wrote that if they wanted to pursue the claim they should contact another attorney.
"Please remember, the statute of limitation on your case is two years from your daughter's eighteenth birthday," he wrote.
Last year she sued former Lakin lawyer Scott Bruce Meyer, the firm, Brad Lakin and his father Tom Lakin.
Her attorney, Kevin McQuillan of Downers Grove, claimed the Lakins breached their duty to her in their investigation.
He claimed the statute of limitations was one year, not two.
The Lakins moved to dismiss, arguing that the firm and Krause never established a relationship as attorney and client.
Crowder denied the motion, finding that Krause's claim of attorney-client relationship was legally correct.
The Lakins asked for appellate review. Crowder granted it Aug. 23.
She wrote, "…there is substantial ground for difference of opinion on the question of law…"