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Legal Malpractice: New York Attorney Malpractice Blog
Pennsylvania Formula for Calculating Statute of Limitations in Legal Malpractice
By (Andrew Lavoott Bluestone)
When does the statute of limitations start to run on a legal malpractice case in Pennsylvania. Hinshwaw reports on this issue.
"The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the statute of limitations for a legal malpractice claim begins to run when the malpractice is committed and is only tolled until the plaintiff should reasonably have found out about some degree of injury. The statute is not tolled until all of a plaintiff’s damages are clear or until appellate proceedings in the underlying case within the legal malpractice case are over.
Under the court’s application of the occurrence rule, the trigger for the accrual of a legal malpractice action is not the realization of actual or ultimate loss, but the occurrence of a breach of duty plus some degree of apparent harm. Thus, the court concluded that the statute of limitations for a breach of a contract claim starts when the duty is breached and is only tolled until the plaintiff should reasonably have found out about the injury. Otherwise put, and applying this reasoning to the instant matter, the court found that Wachovia or its predecessor in interest, Meridian, should have reasonably been aware of the alleged breach on or about October 20, 1994, the date Pisani initiated proceedings for liquidated damages (which, of course, had to be defended at considerable cost). Consequently, the present case was time-barred even though no final judgment determining the ultimate and actual loss had been determined before the statute began to run.
In coming to this conclusion, the court noted that its ruling may require an injured client to pursue two legal actions with competing interests at the same time—the appeal of the underlying case and the malpractice claim. The court concluded, however, that the overriding public policy concern is that stale claims not be filed. "
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