The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently tackled an interesting issue of when a client “discovers” a lawyer’s malpractice.
The opinion is Mark Thomas v. Richard Myers, No. W2016-02581-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. Apps., Oct. 19, 2017).
The most interesting aspect of the case is that the lawyer’s defense, basically, admitted malpractice:
Q: And you were aware that you had lost, for lack of a better term, big time, a lot of money.
A: A great deal of money, yes.
Q: And you were aware that the evaluation by Richard Myers was wrong.
Q: And you were aware that Richard Myers’ deceptions as to what a great case this was was wrong.
A: Yes. Yes.
Q: And you were aware that Richard Myers’ negligence and misrepresenting to you what the law was, what the facts could be presented as, and your great position in this lawsuit was wrong.
Q: And you were aware on that day that he was not being truthful about the odds of winning.
Q: And you were aware on the day that whatever risk outline he had given you, be it little, small, or none, was wrong, because the reality was you’d had a judgment rendered against you, so you knew he had misled you and deceived you.
But, as a legal matter, the defense relied on the “discovery rule” to argue that, despite the lawyer “explaining away the loss” and saying that they’d ultimately win on appeal, the client “discovered” that he suffered an injury on the day that the adverse judgment was rendered at the trial court.
So, again, despite continued assurances from the lawyer that they’d win on appeal, the one-year statute of limitations for malpractice actions starts on the day of the adverse judgment. “At that point, the client is aware of the fact of injury.” Yikes.
This is an interesting decision, that clients will hate, but lawyers will love.