Woman was in a divorce case. She filed a breach of contract complaint against two sets of her attorneys.

She alleged excessive fees against them.

The attorneys had originally filed fee petitions under Section 508 of the Dissolution of Marriage Act. The case was not over at the time. So, the court reserved its ruling on the reasonableness and necessity of the fees until resolution of the proceedings.

The Trial Court dismissed her complaint with prejudice. This was pursuant to section 619(c)(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure. She appealed.

he matters raised in the fee petitions and in the woman’s breach of contract complaint were the “same cause”. Section 508 provided her with the opportunity to fully litigate her claim. It was a straightforward attorney-fee issue. It was not a legal malpractice action. So, she Plaintiff had no right to a jury trial.

Moreover, in enacting section 508, the legislature specifically intended that the trial court, not a jury, should be vested with the discretion to determine the reasonableness and necessity of attorney fees and costs in a dissolution action. This makes sense, as the trial court that has presided over the divorce case is in the best position to determine whether the attorney fees in question were reasonable and necessary.

Schmidt v. Gaynor, 2019 IL App (2d) 180426 (May 22, 2019).

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