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NY: Continuous Representation in Unrelated Matters Will Not Toll Statute of Limitations

Hasty Hills Stables, Inc. v. Dorfman, Lynch, Knoebel & Conway, LLP, 52 A.D.3d 566, 860 N.Y.S.2d 182 (App. Div. 1st Dep’t 2008).

NY: Underlying real estate matter

Student contributor: Nicole Milone

Facts: Hasty Hills Stables, Inc. (Hasty Hills) obtained Dorfman, Lynch, Knoebel & Conway, LLP (law firm) to represent them in the purchase of real estate in 1996. Hasty Hills sought to obtain a 50-year lease on the land, and believed the law firm drafted the contract to their desires. However, in July 2001, the lessor sold the land to a new owner. The new owner then utilized a defeasance clause in the contract which allowed them to terminate the lease. Hasty Hills was evicted in May 2003. They brought this action for malpractice in January 2005.

Issue: Whether the three-year statute of limitations on a legal malpractice claim should be tolled for continuous representation of the client by the attorney?

Ruling: No. The continuous representation of Hasty Hills by the law firm was unrelated to the issue that gave rise to a malpractice claim. The statute of limitations for this legal malpractice claim expired in 1999, three years after the law firm represented Hasty Hills in connection with the sale of real estate. The subsequent representation was unrelated to this sale.

Lesson: The three-year statute of limitation on a legal malpractice claim can be tolled under the doctrine of “continuous representation” only if the attorney continues to represent the client in the same matter that the alleged malpractice occurred.  

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Posted in: Commercial, New York, Real Estate, Statute of Limitations