The Michigan Court of Appeals barred a legal malpractice suit based on Michigan’s two years statute of limitations because the law firm defendant represented the plaintiff in two unrelated matters several years apart instead of continuously as the plaintiff had argued. Segal McCambridge Michigan Shareholder Alan J. Taylor represented the defendant law firm.
In the case In re: Charron Estate, Michigan Court of Appeals Judges Michael J. Riordan, Mark J. Cavanagh and Michael J. Talbot issued this decision. The plaintiff was a law firm client in two separate matters retaining the defendant, Fitzgerald & Dakmak PC. In the first matter, Fitzgerald & Dakmak PC represented the plaintiff in an estate planning matter as then acted as the personal representative of the plaintiff’s probate estate. The law firm also represented the plaintiff’s estate in a separate federal bankruptcy adversary proceeding. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ legal malpractice action in the probate case on the grounds that it was filed outside of the two-year statute of limitations.
In the appeal, the plaintiff argued that the bankruptcy case was not independent from the probate matter, and as such, the law firm continuously represented the plaintiff, thus extending the controlling statute of limitations. The plaintiff also argued that the defendant law firm had engaged in fraudulent concealment of their alleged legal malpractice claim that should have tolled the limitations period. The Court of Appeals disagreed stating that “the bankruptcy proceedings are not within the scope of the malpractice claims alleged in this case” and “Plaintiffs have failed to plead fraudulent concealment with sufficient specificity.”
The ruling exemplifies a strict statute of limitations analysis and application by the lower court, which was affirmed Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Court of Appeals will not automatically let a plaintiff argue continuous representation based on the fact that the same or a successor law firm is involved in an unrelated matter.
The case was documented in Michigan Lawyers Weekly. For the full text of that article, click here.
Alan Taylor is a Segal McCambridge Shareholder who focuses his practice on commercial litigation, the defense of professional negligence claims for lawyers and accountants, insurance defense, real estate litigation, business transactions and defending creditor's rights.