Wednesday, February 21, 2007, 7:11 AM

COA: Dismissal Filed Under Settlement Reached Through Alleged Malpractice Not Last Act Giving Rise To Malpractice Claim

In Ramboot, Inc. v. Lucas, the COA held yesterday that the last act that may trigger a legal malpractice claim is not an act the lawyer undertakes as an officer of the court to comply with a settlement agreement. Rather, the last act was the settlement, which was allegedly reached based on the lawyer's malpractice.

In Ramboot, the plaintiffs retained the allegedly errant lawyer to represent them in their claim for insurance coverage loss related to a fire at their bowling alley. The plaintiffs' allegations focused on the lawyer's actions prior to and at a mediation at which the plaintiffs settled their case. With their malpractice claim, the plaintiffs contended that their attorney gave them misinformation and bad advice that led them to undervalue their claim in that settlement.

The limitations on malpractice claims begin to run at the time of defendants' last acts that gives rise to the malpractice claims. Here, the COA held that the last act triggering the plaintiffs' malpractice claim was either the mediation or, at the latest when the plaintiffs signed a release and took possession of their settlement check. The document dismissing the lawsuit that the allegedly errant lawyer filed pursuant to the settlement agreement did not trigger a malpractice claim. The COA held that was done as an officer of the court and was mandated by the terms of the agreement.

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