Court holds that statute of limitations ran while case was on appeal
A Traverse City couple sued the sellers from whom they bought their home after learning that the sellers experienced an undisclosed insect infestation. They dropped fraud and contract claims at the suggestion of their lawyers and achieved a verdict for innocent misrepresentation. This appears from the outside to have been a reasonable trial tactic at the time. The sellers appealed, however, and the Court of Appeals ruled that terms of The Seller's Disclosure Act invalidated their innocent misrepresentation claim. Therefore, the verdict was overturned, the plaintiffs claims were dismissed, and the couple sued their attorneys for malpractice.The Grand Traverse County Circuit Court judge dismissed the claims against the various attorneys who handled the claim at one stage or another, and the couple appealed. This week the Court of Appeals ruled that the statute of limitations for malpractice began to run when the couple retained appellate counsel and discharged the firm who secured the original verdict: as such, the limitations period had run by the time they filed their malpractice lawsuit. The case is entitled Richard R. Roberts and Stacy D. Roberts v. Lawrence R. LaSusa and Calcutt, Rogers & Boynton, PLLC.
The appellate judges expressed their opinion that if merely cooperating with appellate attorneys by providing [unbilled] services had the effect of extending the statute of limitations, parties would suffer by an unwillingness for trial attorneys to cooperate in the appellate process involving complicated cases. It also held that while the Calcutt firm had billed for services within the limitation period, it could not be vicariously responsible for the negligence of individual attorneys who had been dismissed from the case.