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MI: Legal Malpractice Claim may Accrue When Attorney Sends Letter of Withdrawal

Kloian v Schwartz, 272 Mich App 232, 725 NW2d 671 (Mich Ct App 2006)

MI:  legal malpractice; fee dispute

Student Contributor: Tolu Akinsanya

Facts: defendant represented the plaintiff in an underlying consolidated legal malpractice case in which the plaintiff was suing three different law firms. Defendant also represented the claimant in another underlying fee dispute case. Plaintiff sued the defendant for legal malpractice in both underlying cases. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary because plaintiff had failed to file his complaint within the two-year statute of limitations period. Defendant wrote a letter withdrawing as counsel for the plaintiff on May 13, 2003, and explaining why the plaintiff’s underlying legal malpractice claims failed,  also noting that judge mentioned that the plaintiff had “a history of suing lawyers”. Plaintiff claimed in his allegations in this case that he did not receive the letter of withdrawal until May 17, 2003. Plaintiff filed this legal malpractice claim on May 17, 2005. The trial court held that May 17 was beyond the two-year period to file. Plaintiff appealed.

Issue: Does the two-year professional malpractice statute of limitations begin to run after an attorney sends a letter terminating the engagement or after a court or the client terminates engagement?

Ruling:  The court ruled that in the event an attorney sends the client a notice of withdrawal as his or her final act of professional service in a case that has been dismissed by a trial court, the two-year statute of limitations begins to toll (one judge dissented).

Lesson: One has to wonder whether the plaintiff’s litigiousness in suing his lawyers made him persona non grata with this court.  

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Posted in: Michigan