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Legal Malpractice Statute of Limitations

December 16, 2016

Legal Malpractice Statute of Limitations

CaseJohn Howard Story et al. v. Nicholas D. Bunstein et al.

Issue:  When does a legal malpractice claim accrue?

Facts:  Attorneys represented Clients in an underlying lawsuit against two defendants. One defendant was dismissed by the court, and the second defendant was later dismissed via voluntary nonsuit. After the voluntary dismissal disposing of the full underlying case, Clients sued Attorneys for malpractice. The trial court dismissed the malpractice action on the ground that the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court affirmed in favor of Attorneys. The court held the Client’s injury accrued when the first defendant was dismissed by the court, even if Attorneys told Clients the case could be saved. The court explained: “finality and exhaustion of all remedy is not the gravamen of discovery in legal malpractice cases. Rather, it is knowledge of facts sufficient to put a plaintiff on notice that an injury has been sustained which is crucial.”

Review Granted:  November 17, 2016.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will reverse. It would be bad policy to require clients to have to sue their lawyers while the underlying case is ongoing.