My law firm is one of the few – if not the only – law firm in the Syracuse area whose case load includes a significant amount of legal malpractice cases. Unlike some firms, we are not afraid to sue our colleagues when they “mess up”. Here I am going to talk about an important legal malpractice statute-of-limitations issue that we have been arguing.
Two times recently, in two different courts, our clients’ legal malpractice lawsuits were dismissed by a trial judge because they were sued after the three-year legal malpractice statute of limitations had run. In both cases, we argued that a “toll” should be applied to extend the normal three-year statute of limitations based on a legal concept known as the “continuous representation doctrine”.
What’s the continuous representation doctrine? Basically it says that the statute of limitations clock gets “tolled” – does not start to run – until the lawyer finishes representing the client on the same matter in which he malpracticed the client. So, for example, if your lawyer forgets to enter critical evidence at your trial, the three-year clock won’t start to run – it will be tolled — until he has finished trying your case, making any post-trial motions, and taking any appeals. This could be many years after the original mistake. Whenever he is completely done representing you “in that same matter” that he malpracticed you, the three-year statute of limitations for suing him begins to run.