If there has been a demonstration that the attorney-client relationship in a matter ceased…

While the continuous representation doctrine can toll a time-barred cause of action for legal malpractice, if there has been a demonstration that the attorney-client relationship in a matter ceased, the time within which to bring such action will accrue then, as held in Sclafani v Kahn, 169 AD3d 846 [2d Dept 2019]:

An action to recover damages for legal malpractice must be commenced within three years of accrual, “ regardless of whether the underlying theory is based in contract or tort ” (CPLR 214[6]; see McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d 295, 301, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714; Chase Scientific Research v. NIA Group, 96 N.Y.2d 20, 725 N.Y.S.2d 592, 749 N.E.2d 161; Quinn v. McCabe, Collins, McGeough & Fowler, LLP, 138 A.D.3d at 1086, 30 N.Y.S.3d 288; Alizio v. Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., 126 A.D.3d at 735, 5 N.Y.S.3d 252; Farage v. Ehrenberg, 124 A.D.3d 159, 163, 996 N.Y.S.2d 646; Landow v. Snow Becker Krauss, P.C., 111 A.D.3d at 796, 975 N.Y.S.2d 119). “ A cause of action to recover damages for legal malpractice accrues when the malpractice is committed, not when it is discovered ” (Alizio v. Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., 126 A.D.3d at 735, 5 N.Y.S.3d 252; see McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d at 301, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714; Quinn v. McCabe, Collins, McGeough & Fowler, LLP, 138 A.D.3d at 1086, 30 N.Y.S.3d 288; Farage v. Ehrenberg, 124 A.D.3d at 164, 996 N.Y.S.2d 646; Landow v. Snow Becker Krauss, P.C., 111 A.D.3d at 796, 975 N.Y.S.2d 119).

However, “ [t]he continuous representation doctrine serves to toll the statute of limitations and render timely an otherwise time-barred cause of action for legal malpractice, but ‘ only where there is a mutual understanding of the need for further representation on the specific subject *121 matter underlying the malpractice claim ’ ” (King Tower Realty Corp. v. G & G Funding Corp., 163 A.D.3d 541, 543, 79 N.Y.S.3d 289, quoting McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d at 306, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714; see Alizio v. Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., 126 A.D.3d at 735, 5 N.Y.S.3d 252). For the doctrine to apply, “ there must be clear indicia of ‘ an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependent relationship between the client and the attorney ’ ” (Farage v. Ehrenberg, 124 A.D.3d at 164, 996 N.Y.S.2d 646, quoting Aseel v. Jonathan E. Kroll & Assoc., PLLC, 106 A.D.3d 1037, 1038, 966 N.Y.S.2d 202; see Quinn v. McCabe, Collins, McGeough & Fowler, LLP, 138 A.D.3d at 1086, 30 N.Y.S.3d 288).

Here, the defendants established that the plaintiffs’ legal malpractice cause of action was time-barred, as it accrued on June 24, 2009, at the conclusion of the closing (see Rudolf v. Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker & Sauer, 8 N.Y.3d 438, 442, 835 N.Y.S.2d 534, 867 N.E.2d 385). In opposition to the defendants’ respective motions, the plaintiffs failed to raise a question of fact as to whether the continuous representation doctrine tolled the applicable statute of limitations. Indeed, the communications between the parties upon which the plaintiffs rely, which occurred after the statute of limitations had run, demonstrated that the attorney-client relationship in this matter had ceased at the conclusion of the closing, and was not continued.

R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

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…Applicable to the particular matter in which malpractice is claimed

The statute of limitations in legal malpractice cases can be tolled when there has been continuous representation of the client by the attorney. However, it is applicable only to the particular matter in which malpractice is claimed.

See, Davis v Cohen & Gresser, LLP, 160 AD3d 484, 486 [1st Dept 2018], in which the court held:

“ the continuous representation doctrine does not apply where there is only a vague “ ongoing representation ” (Johnson v. Proskauer Rose LLP, 129 A.D.3d 59, 68, 9 N.Y.S.3d 201 [1st Dept. 2015] ). For the doctrine to apply, the representation must be specifically related to the subject matter underlying the malpractice claim, and there must be a mutual understanding of need for further services in connection with that same subject matter (see Shumsky, 96 N.Y.2d at 168, 726 N.Y.S.2d 365, 750 N.E.2d 67; see also CLP Leasing, 12 A.D.3d at 227, 784 N.Y.S.2d 535). ”

– R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

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Issue of fact concerning the continuous representation doctrine

…issue of fact concerning the continuous representation doctrine…

In an action brought by a client against his law firm, the appellate court reversed the granting of the law firm’s motion for summary judgment based upon an issue of fact concerning the continuous representation doctrine.

Under the continuous representation doctrine, a person seeking professional assistance is placed in a difficult position if required to sue his or her attorney while the attorney continues to represent them on a particular legal matter (Shumsky v. Eisenstein, 96 N.Y.2d 164, 167–168, 726 N.Y.S.2d 365, 750 N.E.2d 67 [2001] ). Accordingly, the doctrine tolls the running of the statute of limitations on malpractice claims until the ongoing representation is completed (id.). However, the application of this doctrine is limited “to the course of representation concerning a specific legal matter,” and is not applicable to the client’s “continuing general relationship with a lawyer … involving only routine contact for miscellaneous legal representation … unrelated to the matter upon which the allegations of malpractice are predicated” (id. at 168, 726 N.Y.S.2d 365, 750 N.E.2d 67). The record presents an issue of fact as to whether defendant continuously represented plaintiff in connection with a personal injury claim based on the accident, such as to toll the statute of limitations during that time (see Glamm v. Allen, 57 N.Y.2d 87, 94, 453 N.Y.S.2d 674, 439 N.E.2d 390 [1982]; Waggoner v. Caruso, 68 A.D.3d 1, 6–7, 886 N.Y.S.2d 368 [1st Dept. 2009] ). Encalada v McCarthy, Chachanover & Rosado, LLP, 160 AD3d 475 [1st Dept 2018].

R. A. Klass
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Issue: whether an attorney “continuously represented” his client.

The issue as to whether an attorney “continuously represented” his client in such a manner as to extend the statute of limitations to bring an action for legal malpractice created an issue of fact, as determined by the First Department in Cordero v. Koval, Retjig & Dean PLLC.

R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

~ ~ ~

Rolando Cordero, Respondent,

v

Koval Retjig & Dean PLLC et al., Appellants.

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York

113450/11, 3740

June 20, 2017

Rivkin Radler LLP, New York (Jonathan B. Bruno of counsel), for appellants.

Law Office of Steven C. Pepperman, New York (Steven C. Pepperman of counsel), for respondent.

Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Debra A. James, J.), entered March 21, 2016, which denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint alleging legal malpractice, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

The claim for malpractice accrued when defendants failed to timely file a notice of claim (see General Municipal Law § 50-e) upon the City of New York and the New York City Department of Transportation after plaintiff was allegedly injured in a fall from his motorcycle because he struck a defectively-placed construction plate in the road (see generally Glamm v Allen, 57 NY2d 87, 93 [1982]). However, the evidence raised triable issues whether the malpractice statute of limitations (CPLR 214 [6]) was tolled under the continuous representation doctrine. Mark Koval, an attorney formerly employed by defendant law firm, joined another law firm at or about the time plaintiff’s personal injury case was transferred to such new law firm. Defendants admit that plaintiff’s case was transferred to the new firm, and Koval does not deny having worked on the case at either the old or new firm (see generally Antoniu v Ahearn, 134 AD2d 151 [1st Dept 1987]; HNH Intl., Ltd. v Pryor Cashman Sherman & Flynn LLP, 63 AD3d 534, 535 [1st Dept 2009]). Although Koval claims he subsequently left the new firm and did not take plaintiff’s case with him, there is no evidence that plaintiff was ever informed of, or had *2 objective notice of, Koval’s departure such as to end the continuous representation circumstance and the tolling of the statute of limitations (see Shumsky v Eisenstein, 96 NY2d 164, 167-169, 170 [2001]). Concur—Sweeny, J.P., Richter, Andrias, Webber and Gesmer, JJ.

Copr. (C) 2017, Secretary of State, State of New York

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Statute of Limitations for Legal Malpractice Action

CPLR 214(6) provides that “an action to recover damages for malpractice, other than medical, dental or podiatric malpractice, regardless of whether the underlying theory is based in contract or tort” must be commenced within 3 years.
 
The cause of action for malpractice accrues at the time of the act, error or omission. See, Julian v. Carrol, 270 AD2d 457 [2d Dept. 2000]; Goicoechea v. Law Offices of Stephen Kihl, 234 AD2d 507 [2d Dept. 1996]; Shumsky v. Eisenstein, 96 NY2d 164 [2001].
 
The Court of Appeals has held that a cause of action for legal malpractice accrues against the attorney when the statute of limitations expires on the underlying action for which the attorney was retained. See, Shumsky v. Eisenstein, supra. In Burgess v. Long Island Railroad Authority, 79 NY2d 777 [1991], the Court of Appeals held:
 
The Continuous Representation Toll of a Legal Malpractice Action

 

The accrual of the three-year statute of limitations is tolled during the period of the lawyer’s continuous representation in the same matter out of which the malpractice arose under the theory that the client should not be expected to question the lawyer’s advice while he is still representing the client. See, Lamellen v. Kupplungbau GmbH v. Lerner, 166 AD2d 505 [2d Dept. 1990]; Shumsky v. Eisenstein, supra. Under the continuous representation doctrine, there must be clear indicia of an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependent relationship between the client and the lawyer. See, Kanter v. Pieri, 11 AD3d 912 [4 Dept. 2004]; Lamellen v. Kupplungbau GmbH v. Lerner, supraClark v. Jacobsen, 202 AD2d 466 [2 Dept. 1994].

 

— by Richard A. Klass, Esq.

———–
copyr. 2014 Richard A. Klass, Esq.
The firm’s website: www.CourtStreetLaw.com
Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation in Brooklyn Heights, New York.
He may be reached at (718) COURT-ST or e-ml to RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.com with any questions.
Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.


R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

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Klass in the News: Malpractice Rulings Extend NYC Lawyers’ Ties To Old Clients

By Pete Brush
Law360, New York
September 11, 2014, 8:22 PM ET

New York City trial court and appellate rulings extending the clock on professional negligence claims against law firms that no longer directly represent those clients could boost malpractice risk and leave attorneys with tough choices over communicating on past matters, experts say….

…The current lay of the land in New York City, where the First Department holds sway, means lawyers must take careful approaches when considering how they might communicate with clients — especially unhappy clients — after the work at hand is done, according to Brooklyn-based attorney Richard A. Klass, who represents malpractice plaintiffs and defendants.

Transactional lawyers, for example, might want to foreclose advice on litigation or appeals at the outset, according to Klass, and they also may want to make it clear that no more advice will be forthcoming at the completion of an engagement in order to shield themselves.

“They should beef up both their hello letters and their goodbye letters,” Klass said.

To read the entire article, click here.


R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

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How the “Continuous Representation” Doctrine Helps Injured Clients

Painting by Giovanni Fattori of a man leaning back leisurely in a chair as he reads a book mounted on a reading stand..
In legal matters, there is an attorney-client relationship from the moment that the attorney is consulted by the client until the matter concludes. If, during the term of this relationship, the attorney was negligent or commits malpractice in the matter, the client may have a claim against the attorney for legal malpractice. Sometimes, the malpractice is committed at the early stages of litigation and not at the conclusion; for instance, an action may have started in Year 1, malpractice was committed in Year 2, and the action concludes in Year 6. The question then becomes whether or not the client may pursue a claim against the attorney for the malpractice committed in Year 2, when the statute of limitations period may have already passed. CPLR 214(6) provides that “an action to recover damages for malpractice, other than medical, dental or podiatric malpractice, regardless of whether the underlying theory is based in contract or tort” must be commenced within 3 years. The cause of action for malpractice accrues at the time of the act, error or omission. See, Julian v. Carrol, 270 AD2d 457 [2d Dept. 2000]; Goicoechea v. Law Offices of Stephen Kihl, 234 AD2d 507 [2d Dept. 1996]; Shumsky v. Eisenstein, 96 NY2d 164 [2001]. In order to protect clients The Court of Appeals has held that a cause of action for legal malpractice accrues against the attorney when the statute of limitations expires on the underlying action for which the attorney was retained. See, Shumsky v. Eisenstein, supra.

The Continuous Representation Toll

The accrual of the three-year statute of limitations is tolled during the period of the lawyer’s continuous representation in the same matter out of which the malpractice arose under the theory that the client should not be expected to question the lawyer’s advice while he is still representing the client. See, Lamellen v. Kupplungbau GmbH v. Lerner, 166 AD2d 505 [2d Dept. 1990]; Shumsky v. Eisenstein, supra. Under the continuous representation doctrine, there must be clear indicia of an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependent relationship between the client and the lawyer. See, Kanter v. Pieri, 11 AD3d 912 [4 Dept. 2004]; Lamellen v. Kupplungbau GmbH v. Lerner, supra; Clark v. Jacobsen, 202 AD2d 466 [2 Dept. 1994].
by Richard A. Klass, Esq.
 
©2008 Richard A. Klass. Art credits: [art critic] Diego Martelli in Castiglioncello by Giovanni Fattori, 1865-1867. ———– copyr. 2011 Richard A. Klass, Esq. The firm’s website: www.CourtStreetLaw.com Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn Heights, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT-ST or e-ml to RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.com with any questions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

R. A. Klass Your Court Street Lawyer

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Striking the Affirmative Defense of Statute of Limitations in a Legal Malpractice Action…

When a former client sues his attorney for legal malpractice, the defendant-attorney/law firm will almost invariably put forward, as part of its defense of the law suit, the Affirmative Defense of Statute of Limitations. In New York State, the period in which an attorney may be sued (whether for a tort [civil wrong] or breach of contract) is generally three (3) years from the date of malpractice. If the client does not sue the attorney/law firm within the applicable Statute of Limitations period, then the case is “time barred” and may be dismissed as having been filed too late. When the defendant attorney alleges in his Answer to the law suit that the action is barred by the Statute of Limitations, it is essential to deal with the issue as soon as practicably possible. One effective way is to make a motion to the trial judge to “strike” (or dismiss) the Affirmative Defense from the Answer. Civil Practice Law and Rules [CPLR] Section 3211(b) provides that a party may move to strike an affirmative defense.

Affirmative Defense – Statute of Limitations:

In a recent case, the defendant law firm asserted the Affirmative Defense that the legal malpractice action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. In response, Richard A. Klass, Your Court Street Lawyer, brought a motion to dismiss the Affirmative Defense. The motion requested that this affirmative defense be stricken, since it was alleged that the plaintiff-injured person brought the action within the applicable three-year statute of limitations period, as specified in CPLR 214(6). CPLR 214(6) provides that “an action to recover damages for malpractice, other than medical, dental or podiatric malpractice, regardless of whether the underlying theory is based in contract or tort” must be commenced within 3 years. The cause of action for malpractice accrues at the time of the act, error or omission. See, Julian v. Carrol, 270 AD2d 457 [2d Dept. 2000]; Goicoechea v. Law Offices of Stephen Kihl, 234 AD2d 507 [2d Dept. 1996]; Shumsky v. Eisenstein, 96 NY2d 164 [2001]. In the recent case, the allegation of legal malpractice against the defendant law firm was that there was a ‘blown’ statute of limitations because the law firm did not timely sue the potentially liable party. In that situation, the New York State Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court) has held that a cause of action for legal malpractice accrues against the attorney when the statute of limitations expires on the underlying action for which the attorney was retained. See, Shumsky v. Eisenstein, supra. In Burgess v. Long Island Railroad Authority, 79 NY2d 777 [1991], the Court of Appeals held:
A person has one year from the date a claim accrues to commence an action against a public authority such as LIRR (Public Authorities Law Section 1276(2). The complaint must contain an allegation that at least 30 days have elapsed since the authority was presented with a demand or claim and that the authority has neglected or refused to adjust or pay the claim. This “stay” of 30 days is not counted as part of the limitations period and the plaintiff therefore may serve a complaint at any time up to one year and 30 days after the claim has accrued.
In the case, the plaintiff’s incident was alleged to have occurred on June 4, 2003. According to Public Authorities Law Section 1276, an action would have to have been brought against the LIRR within one year and thirty days after the incident. The defendant law firm was alleged to have failed to timely do so and the time in which to do so passed on their ‘watch.’

The Continuous Representation Toll:

The accrual of the three-year statute of limitations is ‘tolled’ during the period of the lawyer’s continuous representation in the same matter out of which the malpractice arose under the theory that the client should not be expected to question the lawyer’s advice while he is still representing the client. See, Lamellen v. Kupplungbau GmbH v. Lerner, 166 AD2d 505 [2d Dept. 1990]; Shumsky v. Eisenstein, supra. Under the continuous representation doctrine, there must be clear indicia of an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependent relationship between the client and the lawyer. See, Kanter v. Pieri, 11 AD3d 912 [4 Dept. 2004]; Lamellen v. Kupplungbau GmbH v. Lerner, supra; Clark v. Jacobsen, 202 AD2d 466 [2 Dept. 1994]. In the case, the defendant law firm was alleged to have continuously represented the injured plaintiff up until August 2007, as represented by the proceedings brought on his behalf and the correspondence between the parties. Accordingly, the Statute of Limitations in which to sue the defendant law firm for legal malpractice for having missed the opportunity to have sued the proper party for the incident that resulted in the client’s injury started ticking when the law firm no longer represented him.
by Richard A. Klass, Esq.
———– copyr. 2010 Richard A. Klass, Esq. The firm’s website: www.CourtStreetLaw.com Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn Heights, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT-ST or e-ml to RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.com with any questions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

R. A. Klass Your Court Street Lawyer

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