Pointe San Diego v. Procopio: Relation-Back Doctrine Applies to Amended Complaint for Legal Malpractice

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In a published opinion, the California Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) held that a complaint for legal malpractice containing general allegations of professional negligence provided adequate notice to the former attorneys of the basis for the claim. The court also held the later amended complaint specifying the basis for the malpractice claim related back to the original, timely-filed complaint even though the original complaint contained a single cause of action and the final complaint contained eight. The decision is Pointe San Diego Residential Community, L.P. v. Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, 2011 Cal.App.LEXIS 784.

Former clients sued their prior counsel for legal malpractice relating to ongoing litigation in a complex real estate suit. The original complaint contained a single cause of action for “general negligence” alleging that the defendant attorneys failed to use due care in handling the case, which was identified by name. The former clients later amended the complaint to allege more details about the claim. However, the trial court sustained the attorneys’ demurrer to the amended complaint on the ground that it was time barred. The trial court ruled that the relation-back rule was inapplicable because the original complaint did not contain sufficient factual allegations.

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