Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Legal Malpractice Cases, Part 2
To read this article from the beginning, click here for Part 1:
WHAT DOES “TOLLING” MEAN?
A statute that is “tolled” is effectively “paused.” With regard to the statute of limitations (a law that limits the amount of time a plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit against a defendant) any facts or situations that “toll” the statute extend the amount of time the plaintiff has to file suit.
For example, a legal malpractice lawsuit that ordinarily must be filed within a year may be “tolled” during the time the lawyer deliberately conceals his or her malpractice from the client. As long as the client did not know about the malpractice, and had no reasonable way to discover it, the statute of limitations may not start to run.
WHEN IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE “TOLLED” IN CALIFORNIA?
California’s statute of limitations on legal malpractice is found in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.6, which also describes the following situations and circumstances under which the statute will be tolled:
1. When “the plaintiff has not sustained any actual injury.”
2. When “the attorney continues to represent the plaintiff regarding the specific subject matter in which the alleged wrongful act or omission occurred.”
3. When “the attorney willfully conceals the facts constituting the wrongful act or omission when such facts are known to the attorney, except that this subdivision shall toll only the four-year limitation.”
4. When “the plaintiff is under a legal or physical disability which restricts the plaintiff’s ability to commence legal action.”
(See CCP Section 340.6(a)(1)-(4))
If one of these provisions applies (or in other circumstances where the statute of limitations is properly tolled) the amount of time the plaintiff has to file suit against the defendant attorney is normally extended for an amount of time equal to the length of the tolling condition.
For example, if a plaintiff’s legally recognized physical disability prevented the plaintiff for filing suit for a provable period of six calendar months, the plaintiff’s filing deadline would be extended for six months (as a general rule … always consult an attorney to have your specific situation evaluated).
Never attempt to evaluate whether a statute of limitations applicable to your case is tolled, or running, without the advice of experienced legal counsel. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel who understands your particular case and needs.
Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Legal claims against lawyers or other third parties are a complicated topic. If you believe you have a claim against an attorney who failed to provide you with competent representation, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.