An Illinois doctor has sued McDonald Hopkins LLC for legal malpractice, claiming the firm botched his defense of a noncompete lawsuit brought by his former employer, the hair transplant surgery provider Bosley Medical Group SC.
While plaintiff William D. Yates ultimately won dismissal of Bosley’s breach of contract suit, he contends in Thursday’s suit that McDonald Hopkins partner Steven Harris cost him an even better outcome by failing to bring counterclaims for racial discrimination against the medical group, according to a complaint filed in Illinois court.
“But for the negligence of [McDonald Hopkins and Harris], Dr. Yates could assert meritorious claims against Bosley which would have been resolved in favor of Dr. Yates if litigated,” the suit said.
Bosley employed Yates as an independent contractor performing hair transplant surgery for more than five years ending in 2011, when he left for rival Ziering Medical Corp.
Bosley sued Yates and his new employer in March 2012, claiming the doctor breached the two-year noncompete agreement in his contract by working at Ziering’s Oak Brook office just outside Chicago.
Yates hired McDonald Hopkins and Harris to defend the suit, and an Illinois judge dismissed the case in October 2012, finding that the geographical terms of the non compete barred Yates from working for a competitor only within the city of Chicago itself.
Despite this positive result, Yates alleges in Thursday’s complaint that he had viable counterclaims that McDonald Hopkins ignored and that are now time-barred or otherwise unavailable to him due to his counsel’s negligence.
Yates, who is African-American, claims Bosley discriminated against blacks by charging them more for hair procedures than white customers, and that the company discriminated against him personally by directing more patients to an equally skilled white physician.
Yates was also the only doctor targeted by the company for breaching the noncompete agreement, even though several other white physicians left the company around the same time, according to the complaint.
Yates alleges that he told Harris and McDonald Hopkins that this “disparate treatment” was a breach of his contract and should give rise to counterclaims against Bosley.
But the firm failed to file such counterclaims and, making matters worse, never advised Yates that he would be barred from bringing such claims should the case get dismissed, the suit said.
The counterclaims could have helped Yates recoup all of his legal fees in the noncompete suit, along with other damages based on the compensation he lost from Bosley’s allegedly racially biased practices, according to the complaint.
The suit seeks at least $50,000 in damages, along with disgorgement of the legal fees that Yates paid to McDonald Hopkins.
For its part, McDonald Hopkins denied the allegations in a statement on Monday. “We believe the litigation is meritless and we intend to vigorously defend this claim,” the firm said. Yates is represented by Jefferey O. Katz of the Patterson Law Firm LLC.
Counsel information for the defendants was not immediately available. The case is Yates v. McDonald Hopkins LLC et al., case number 14L007500, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., Law Division.