A Lawyer's "Continuing Wrong" Will Extend Time For Filing Client's Suit
The deadline or statute of limitations for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims by a client against an attorney in New York, is three years from the date of the wrongdoing; or, in the event of continuing representation, three years from the last date of continuous representation. On July 25, 2017 the Appellate Division, First Department upheld the dismissal of a legal malpractice claim as untimely but allowed the breach of fiduciary claim against the law firm to proceed to trial finding that evidence of a "continuing wrong" for years after the attorney-client relationship had ended altered the statute of limitations. The Court held: " Where there is a series of continuing wrongs, the continuing wrong doctrine tolls the limitation period until the date of the commission of the last wrongful act."
This ruling revived a $2.8 million suit against Willkie Farr & Gallagher by a former client who claimed the firm breached its ethical duties due to a conflict of interest. The Willkie firm represented a former co-manager of a financial services firm who had been accused of regulatory violations. Shortly after accepting the former co-manager as a client, Willkie also agreed to represent his former employer. A disciplinary proceeding against the individual was ultimately dismissed and both the individual and his former employer were eventually absolved of any wrongdoing. However, a breach of fiduciary duty claim was supported by a letter Willkie sent to the regulatory authority which "appeared to shift to plaintiff all or most of the responsibility for any alleged violations of FINRA's rules." Palmeri v Willkie Farr & Gallagher, 2017 WL 3136664
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