Stone v. Pattis
Absent a continuing course of conduct or fraudulent concealment that tolls the statute of limitations, a legal-malpractice count against an attorney can be barred by the three-year statute of limitations. In 2003, the plaintiffs hired Attorney Norman Pattis, to represent them in a federal civil-right suit against a municipality, alleging excessive use of force and violation of equal-protection rights. The plaintiffs paid a $7,500 retainer. The municipality's attorney informed Pattis that the equal-protection claim was frivolous, and the municipality would request sanctions, if Pattis continued to prosecute. Pattis withdrew that claim. The plaintiffs filed grievances against Attorney Pattis, who filed a motion to withdraw. On April 4, 2006, the plaintiff wrote a letter to Pattis, alleged that he broke his contract and requested that he forward documents and return the retainer. The plaintiffs proceeded pro se, then withdrew the federal civil-rights suit and filed a Superior Court suit against Attorney Pattis, alleging breach of contract, legal malpractice and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Pattis moved for summary judgment. "The formal termination of the relationship occurs when the attorney is discharged by the client, the matter for which the attorney was hired comes to a conclusion or a court grants the [attorney's] motion to withdraw from representation," pursuant to DeLeo v. Nusbaum, a 2003 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The Superior Court found that the plaintiffs effectively discharged Attorney Pattis on April 4, 2006 and that the plaintiffs served the malpractice complaint against Attorney Pattis on April 30, 2009. There was no continuing course of conduct or fraudulent concealment that tolled the statute of limitations. The court found that the legal-malpractice count was barred by the three-year statute of limitations. The plaintiff's breach-of-contract count actually was a negligence claim that was couched in contract terminology. It was not filed timely, pursuant to C.G.S. §52-577. The plaintiff failed to timely file a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations in C.G.S. §52-584. The court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment.