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Iowa Holds That Legal Malpractice Is Time-Barred

This is an opinion of the Iowa Supreme Court, holding that a legal malpractice case was time-barred. The case is Skadburg v. Gately, 17-0151. Skadburg was the administrator of an estate and alleged that she hired the defendant to give her legal advice. Skadburg claimed that she used funds from a life insurance policy to pay debts of the estate. Skadburg alleged that the lawyer failed to inform her that the life insurance proceeds were exempt from any claims and would pass directly to the beneficiary. Thus, in Skadburg’s view, the lawyer’s failure to advise her that the life insurance was exempt cost her the life insurance proceeds.

The case had one huge problem Рthe estate was closed on August 18, 2010. The malpractice case was filed more than five years later on August 19, 2015. The trial court held the case was time-barred but the appellate court reversed. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed that decision.

The Iowa Supreme Court found that Skadburg had notice of her cause of action in 2008 when she paid the creditors and that the case was filed after the five-year statute of limitations expired.  The continuous representation exception to the statute of limitations did not apply because the plaintiff had actual or constructive notice of her claim before the attorney-client relationship ended. Further, there was no exception for fraudulent concealment of the cause of action.

Result: judgment for Defendant Affirmed.

Comment: It is very common that a client will learn of a potential mistake by a lawyer years after the bad event occurs. If you have sustained an economic loss, and a lawyer was involved in that loss, you should consult a malpractice lawyer as soon as possible to determine if you have a case. Don’t wait for your appeal to be decided. Don’t wait for anything. Getting a second opinion is the best way to find out if there was an error of substance.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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