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Kamilewicz v. Bank of Boston Corporation

100 F.3d 1348 (1996)

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Kamilewicz v. Bank of Boston Corporation

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

100 F.3d 1348 (1996)

Facts

A class action was brought against Bank of Boston Corporation (the bank) (defendant). The contention in the class action was that the bank did not promptly post interest to real estate escrow accounts. The class action was filed in Alabama state court. The class attorneys engaged in the settlement process with the bank’s attorneys and the Alabama court. The maximum award per class member was under $9 as indicated by the notice sent out by the class attorneys. Not many potential class members opted out or objected because the of the seemingly low stakes. The class members were unaware that there was a potential for a net loss after their accounts were credited and debited pursuant to the settlement agreement. The Alabama judge approved the settlement agreement after a fairness hearing. The bank disbursed $8 million to the class attorneys and credited the accounts of class members with small sums as agreed upon. However, many class members received credits smaller than the amount to be debited, or taken, from their accounts. Dexter Kamilewicz (plaintiff) was one such class member. Kamilewicz received a credit of $2.19 and a debit of $91.33, so he had a net loss of $89.14. Kamilewicz and other account holders (collectively, the account holders) (plaintiffs) were outraged. The account holders sued the class attorneys (and the bank and its attorneys) in federal district court for legal malpractice, among other claims, arguing that the potential to realize a net loss was not disclosed to class members by the class attorneys. The class attorneys invoked the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which precludes federal courts other than the Supreme Court from reviewing a state court’s civil judgment. The class attorneys argued that the doctrine barred relief in federal court, and the district court agreed. The district court dismissed the entire complaint for lack of jurisdiction. A panel of the court of appeals affirmed. The account holders petitioned for rehearing with a suggestion for rehearing en banc. A majority of the judges of the court of appeals voted both to deny rehearing and to deny rehearing en banc based on application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning

Dissent (Easterbrook, J.)

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