The Ohio Supreme Court recently decided Natl. Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Wuerth, et al., 2009-Ohio-3601. In that case, the insurance company plaintiff sued a law firm for malpractice. The Court answered two questions presented to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The Court first found that a law firm is not licensed to practice law in Ohio, and accordingly, cannot directly be sued for malpractice. In so holding, the Court followed precedent in the medical malpractice context.
The Court then found that a law firm can only be vicariously liable for malpractice if one or more of the firm’s principals or associates are liable for malpractice. Failure to timely sue a lawyer that allegedly committed malpractice will be fatal to the claim, even if the law firm itself was timely sued.