News & Insights

Attorney's Lien Action Does Not Equal Breach of Contract Action

01 Jan 2002

The Illinois Supreme Court held that an attorney's lien asserted by private lawyers hired by the State of Illinois to sue the tobacco industry under a contingency fee arrangement is not a claim against the State. The Court rejected the State's argument that the attorneys had to prosecute their lien in the Court of Claims. Instead, the Court found that the Circuit Court of Cook County, which had presided over the original action against the tobacco industry, had jurisdiction to adjudicate the lien on the settlement funds. The Court reiterated the difference between an action under the Illinois Attorneys' Lien Act and a breach of contract action brought by a lawyer against his or her client. The Court also noted that: the State hired its private lawyers under a 10% contingency fee arrangement; the settlement funds are to be paid by private tobacco companies; the Circuit Court had jurisdiction over those settlement funds; "under no circumstances" can the general funds of the state be reached to satisfy the lien; and finally, the "state is not appropriating any money whatsoever." People v. Philip Morris, Inc., 198 Ill.2d 87, ___ N.E.2d ___ (Oct. 18, 2001).


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