It’s a common perception that after one year lawyers are “in the clear” for any potential malpractice claim. Indeed, Ohio Revised Code 2305.11 provides that… an action for malpractice… shall be commenced within one year after the cause of action accrued.
However, in Zimmie v. Calfee Halter & Griswold, et al., 43 Ohio St. 3d 54 (1989) the Ohio Supreme Court held that:
under R.C. 2305.11(A), an action for legal malpractice accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when there is a cognizable event whereby the client discovers or should have discovered that his injury was related to his attorney’s act or non-act and the client is put on notice of a need to pursue his possible remedies against the attorney OR
when the attorney-client relationship for that particular transaction or undertaking terminates,
Thus, if the matter for which you are representing your client is in an area of law such as real estate, domestic relations, and estate planning where it may be years before any cognizable event, the statute of limitations will be one year from the cognizable event leading to the discovery of any potential malpractice.
Ohio does not have a statute of repose for legal malpractice claims like some of our neighboring states. Discovery of an alleged malpractice claim could take place even decades later. This is an important consideration when considering “tail” insurance as well.
What can attorneys do? Here are BEST PRACTICES – LEGAL MALPRACTICE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS:
- ALWAYS send a file closing letter informing the client the representation is concluded.
- Return files to the client at the conclusion of the representation and obtain a receipt for the file. Scan the file for you to retain.
- If the client contacts you with any questions regarding your representation, immediately report it to OBLIC.
If you have any questions about this or any other topic, please feel free to contact Gretchen Mote at OBLIC.
Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Company
Direct Phone Line: 614.572.0620