Wagner v. Sellinger

847 A.2d 1151 (D.C. 2004)

 

RULE:

The discovery rule provides that a claim does not accrue until a plaintiff knows, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should know, of (1) an injury, (2) its cause, and (3) some evidence of wrongdoing. The statute of limitations will not begin to run until the plaintiff either has actual notice of the cause of action or, given the obligation to discover the discoverable, has inquiry notice as of the time a reasonable investigation would have led to actual notice. The plaintiff need not be fully informed about the injury for the statute to begin running; she need only have some knowledge of some injury. Knowledge is deemed sufficient if the plaintiff has reason to suspect that the defendant did something wrong, even if the full extent of the wrongdoing is not yet known. 

FACTS:

Appellants' complaint alleged a failure to conduct adequate discovery. Appellants had terminated appellees' representation in the medical malpractice action after allegedly compromising their causes of action, which required settlement. Appellants hired their new counsel, who had opined that appellees' discovery efforts had been inadequate. At trial on other counts, it was first learned that a doctor was negligent by using an instrument called a bovie, instead of a rongeur. 

ISSUE:

Did the trial court err in granting appellees summary judgment, because appellants had filed their legal malpractice action within the applicable three-year statute of limitations period?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

 The court found that the trial court erred in granting appellees summary judgment, because appellants had filed their legal malpractice action within the applicable three-year statute of limitations period, since the limitations period did not begin to run when appellees' representation was terminated but rather when they first learned at trial in the medical malpractice action that a different instrument was used and the trial court refused to permit appellants' counsel to redepose the surgeons. The court directed the trial court to address the propriety of the disqualification of appellants' counsel on remand.

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