R.D.H. Communs. v. Winston

700 A.2d 766 (D.C. 1997)

 

RULE:

Under the continuous representation rule for legal malpractice claims, when the injury to the client may have occurred during the period the attorney was retained, the malpractice cause of action does not accrue until the attorney's representation concerning the particular matter in issue is terminated. Thus, in essence, under the continuous representation rule the cause of action is tolled until the attorney ceases to represent the client in the specific matter at hand. 

FACTS:

Appellant clients brought a legal malpractice action against appellees, attorney and law firm. The clients contended that the court should adopt the continuous representation rule in relation to the statute of limitations. Under such a rule, the statute of limitations on the clients' claim would begin to run on the date the attorney ceased to represent the clients in the specific matter in which the attorney allegedly committed malpractice. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia granted summary judgment in favor of the attorney and the law firm, finding that the action was time-barred by the three-year statute of limitations. The clients filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied.

ISSUE:

Did the Superior Court err in granting summary judgment in favor of the attorney and the law firm, finding that the action was time-barred by the three-year statute of limitations?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The court adopted the continuous representation rule, holding that the rule avoided placing clients in the untenable position of suing their attorney while the latter continued to represent them. The court held that under the rule, the statute of limitations in cases of fraudulent concealment began to run when the wrongdoing was discovered or when the representation was terminated, whichever was later. The court held that the clients' knowledge of the attorney's alleged error did not nullify the rule. The court held that when the representation was terminated by the clients was a question of fact that needed to be answered upon remand.

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