Articles Tagged with Statute of Limitations

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This is a legal malpractice case in which the plaintiff, Juakeishia Pruitt retained the Cockrell & Cockrell firm to pursue employment claims against Spillman College and other claims against other parties. According to the opinion, the firm failed to file the claims in timely fashion and an associate concealed that fact from Pruitt. The associate, Byron House, made further false representations as to the status of those cases in an effort to conceal from Pruitt that the cases had not been filed in timely fashion. The associate told Pruitt that her cases had settled and made payments to her from the firm’s operating account. The opinion states:

Subsequently, Pruitt met with another attorney, Delaine Mountain. During that meeting, House called Pruitt on her cellular telephone, and Mountain listened to that conversation. On January 18, 2012, Mountain made two telephone calls to Cockrell to discuss Mountain’s concerns regarding House’s handling of Pruitt’s discrimination cases. Cockrell twice confronted House in light of the information he had received from Mountain. Eventually, House told Cockrell that he had missed the statute of limitations on both discrimination cases; that there was no structured settlement in the Stillman College case; and that he had taken money for the alleged settlement payments from the Cockrell law firm’s general business account and trust accounts. The Cockrell law firm immediately terminated his association with the firm.

When Pruitt learned that her claims had not been filed on time, she sued for legal malpractice. The law firm defended on the ground that the legal malpractice statute of limitations had run. The trial court denied the law firm’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that the law firm had made fraudulent representations to Ms. Pruitt. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the denial of summary judgment on the ground that the fraudulent actions by the associate were a separate basis for liability under Alabama’s Legal Services Act.

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It is very common that someone will come into my office and explain that he is a victim of legal malpractice. Often, for reasons I don’t understand, the person waits more than two years after the underlying judgment before they contact me. By waiting this long, the statute of limitations has run and there is absolutely nothing we can do to help the plaintiff.

In Illinois the plaintiff has two years to file suit from whenever the plaintiff discovers the injury. Where there is litigation, discovery occurs when the underlying case reaches judgment.

In Belden v. Emmerman, the Illinois Appellate Court held that the statute of limitations begins to run when there is an adverse judgment against the injured party. The defendant moved to dismiss and the plaintiff argued that, because he filed an appeal of the adverse judgment, the statute of limitations did not start to run until the appeal was decided.

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Osborne v. Keeney, Ky: Supreme Court 2012 – Google Scholar.

This is a legal malpractice case in which the plaintiff alleged that her lawyer failed to file a lawsuit on time and missed the applicable statute of limitations.  The Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the claim and addressed other issues as well.  The court held that punitive damages are not recoverable against an attorney in a legal malpractice case.

The opinion reaffirms that the plaintiff in a legal malpractice case must prove a case within a case.  The court set forth the method for proving the case within a case requirement: