AL: Underlying action for battery and invasion of privacy
Facts: Client hired Attorneys to represent her in a suit for battery and invasion of privacy against her employers. Client considered herself a victim of sexual harassment. The court entered judgment against one employer, but not the other. Attorneys filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on three different grounds, but the court denied this motion. Attorneys failed to file a motion for a new trial and failed to file a motion to set aside the verdict on the ground that the verdict in favor of one of the employers was inconsistent with the verdict against the other employer. After the losing employer moved to set aside the verdict against him, the court rendered final judgment in favor of this employer. This left the client with no recourse against either employer. Client sued Attorneys alleging acts of legal malpractice. Attorneys moved for dismissal of, or summary judgment claiming that legal malpractice claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The court ruled against the Attorneys, and Attorneys now appeal.
Issue: Whether the trial court correctly denied Attorneys’ motion to dismiss or for summary judgment in the malpractice action?
Ruling: Yes. The lawyers failed to establish that their not filing a motion for directed verdict on Client’s battery and invasion of privacy claims constituted any malpractice at all. Attorneys also failed to argue that Clients lacked evidence to prove malpractice claim. The court rules that in the absence of malpractice, the statute of limitations could not have begun running.
Lesson: Without malpractice or any act of malpractice, “a client’s two-year time limit for suing the lawyers for the malpractice could not have begun running under any theory of accrual of the cause of action.” Ex parte Panell, 756 So.2d 862 (Ala. 1999).