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Winniczek v. Nagelberg

394 F.3d 505 (2005)

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Winniczek v. Nagelberg

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

394 F.3d 505 (2005)

Facts

Hilary Winniczek and his wife (plaintiffs) sued attorney Sheldon Nagelberg (defendant), who represented Hilary on criminal charges. Nagelberg called Hilary’s previous attorney inexperienced in federal criminal matters and recommended firing him and hiring Nagelberg. Then Nagelberg said Hilary had a good defense that would cost $170,000 to present. Once the Winniczeks fully paid, Nagelberg refused to try the case because Hilary had previously made statements to authorities that precluded any defense and had to plead guilty. A third lawyer represented Hilary at the plea hearing. Hilary pleaded guilty and received 20 months in prison. The Winniczeks sued Nagelberg alleging two counts. Captioned “breach of contract/fiduciary duty,” the first accused Nagelberg of overcharging and charging for services not provided and not reading the statements Hilary made, seeking recovery of the $170,000. The second was captioned “professional negligence” and accused Nagelberg of malpractice. The district court dismissed the complaint, reasoning the actual-innocence rule prevented recovery because Hilary could not prove he would have been acquitted but for Nagelberg’s negligence. The Winniczeks appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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