Legal Malpractice Claim Filed More than One Year after BPR Complaint was Untimely.

Where plaintiff had filed complaints with the Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) complaining of the same allegations that allegedly supported her legal malpractice claim, and those BPR complaints were filed more than one year before the legal malpractice suit was filed, summary judgment based on the statute of limitations was affirmed.

In Jones v. Marshall, No. M2020-01627-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 28, 2021), plaintiff filed this pro se legal malpractice claim against defendant on December 20, 2019. Plaintiff had previously reported defendant to the BPR based on the same allegations in November 2018. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the BPR decisions on the matter “were res judicata and Plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case of legal malpractice.” Defendant filed a separate motion for summary judgment, asserting that the complaint was barred by the statute of limitations.

Plaintiff failed to reply to the motion for summary judgment, but later filed a different motion arguing against summary judgment and asserting that she did not receive notice of the summary judgment motion. After a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment based on the statute of limitations, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

While much of the Court of Appeals’ opinion focused on whether plaintiff was prejudiced by the trial court and whether a proper address was used by defendant when sending notice of the motion for summary judgment, the crux of this case was the statute of limitations. Legal malpractice is subject to a one-year statute of limitations, and the facts in this case showed that plaintiff knew about the alleged malpractice more than a year before filing her complaint. The Court pointed out that plaintiff filed BPR complaints on November 7, 8 and 16, 2018, and that “Plaintiff had not denied that those complaints contained the same allegations against Defendant as her legal malpractice complaint in this matter.” Because her legal malpractice claim was not filed until more than one year after these BPR complaints were filed, summary judgment was affirmed.

Note:  Chapter 64, Section 5 of Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law has been updated to include this decision.

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