Lawyer suing Gurnee trustee Tom Hood says case hinges on a simple mistake
A simple mistake – albeit one that potentially cost a client $200,000 – is at stake in a malpractice lawsuit against Gurnee Village trustee and attorney Tom Hood.
That’s the verdict of attorney Thomas W. Gooch, the lawyer suing Hood for malpractice on behalf of Annette Sarrazine. She alleges Hood was negligent in handling a dispute with her siblings involving their late parents’ estate and is petitioning for a refund of $210,000 she paid Hood in attorney’s fees.
“I think Tom Hood is generally a good lawyer and is a good guy,” Gooch said in an interview with the Lake County Gazette. “He’s well thought of in the town. He just made a mistake.”
Hood, who did not immediately return a reporter’s phone calls for comment, has served on the Gurnee Board since 2013 and for 20 years on the town’s zoning board of appeals.
According to the complaint Sarrazine filed against Hood, a court had ruled that Sarrazine was “unreliable and not necessarily truthful” and entered a judgment against her of more than $700,000. The amount includes assets Sarrazine transferred to herself as power of attorney from her parents’ estate.
Hood appealed the decision against Sarrazine, and an appeals court later affirmed the initial court’s $700,000 judgment. Because Hood allegedly failed to anticipate Sarrazine would lose, she is suing for the return of all attorney’s fees paid to Hood as well as the opposing side's legal fees.
Gooch said he has handled malpractice cases for almost his entire 40-year legal career. He said he didn’t believe Hood was incompetent and emphasized making a mistake is not out of the ordinary, even for a good lawyer.
“It happens,” he said. “I’m not going to say anything bad about Tom Hood. I’ve known him for a lot of years. I want to make it very clear I don’t think he’s incompetent. He just made a mistake.”
A search of the Lake County Court docket shows that Hood has been involved in two other malpractice cases, one brought by plaintiff Michael A. Doyle, which was dismissed but is on appeal, and another brought by the Heather Ridge Umbrella Association, which was dismissed and is listed as closed.