Los Angeles Team Secures Appellate Affirmance

Los Angeles Partners Kenneth C. Feldman and Patrik Johansson and Los Angeles Appellate Partner Raul L. Martinez recently prevailed on appeal in a legal malpractice action following the trial court’s ruling sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend.

The plaintiff, a probate estate, sued two attorneys for allowing a probate court petition awarding double damages against an underlying debtor to be granted before an order granting relief from the automatic stay had been entered in the debtor’s bankruptcy proceedings, rendering the probate court’s order void. The estate waited to sue the attorneys for legal malpractice until the debtor’s underlying appeal resulted in setting aside the probate court’s void order.

On demurrer, the attorneys argued that the one-year statute of limitations on the legal malpractice claim began to run when the probate court’s order was entered and not when the appellate court in the probate matter ruled the order was void. We argued that the plaintiff suffered actual injury at the latest when the plaintiff incurred attorneys’ fees in defending the underlying appeal.

The Court of Appeal agreed and affirmed the dismissal of the action. The appellate court held that the estate sustained “actual injury” at several points in time: when the probate court entered its fateful order because the order was immediately void as a matter of law since it was in violation of the automatic stay, when the state incurred attorneys’ fees defending the underlying appeal, and when the estate’s ability to collect the double damages award was delayed as a result of the estate having to refile its probate court petition. As all of these events occurred more than a year before the legal malpractice suit was filed, the court ruled that it was barred by the statute of limitations.

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