Reice v. O'Sullivan
Continued Representation Failed To Toll Malpractice Limitation Period
Civil Procedure | Statute of Limitations | Legal Profession | Attorney Malpractice
- Stamford/Norwalk J.D., at Stamford
- Jan 29 2014 (Date Decided)
- Povodator, J.
Continued legal representation on another matter may not be sufficient toll the statute of limitations, which requires continued representation on the same legal matter. The plaintiff, Richard Reice, hired the defendant, Attorney Christine O’Sullivan, when he and his wife divorced in November 2006. O’Sullivan’s retainer agreement indicated that entry of judgment in the divorce action would end the attorney’s legal representation. In 2010, the plaintiff sued Attorney O’Sullivan and argued legal malpractice in connection with the separation contract, which was incorporated into the 2006 judgment of dissolution. The Superior Court found that the statute of limitations barred the plaintiff’s 2010 claim against the defendant in connection with the separation contract, because the underlying matter ended in 2006, and the plaintiff was not entitled to tolling. The court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on legal malpractice in connection with the separation contract. "Evidence of a continuing course of representation," wrote the court, "does not extend the statute of limitations beyond 2009 for conduct that occurred prior to and in connection with the marriage dissolution." The court also granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s allegation that Attorney O’Sullivan, without any warning, called the plaintiff, himself an attorney, to testify at a post-judgment hearing in 2008, and failed to adequately prepare the plaintiff. The plaintiff failed to disclose a legal expert who could testify on his behalf on the legal standard of care and causation. Expert testimony is required to decide the scope of the defendant’s duty to the plaintiff and whether an alleged breach of that duty caused any harm to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s failure to identify an expert was fatal to his legal-malpractice claim.