Dismissal with Prejudice Starts the Legal Malpractice Clock

Armstrong Teasdale LLP

Novack and Macey LLP

This fall the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division dismissed a legal malpractice case because the plaintiff failed to bring the claim within the applicable two-year statute of limitations.  Illinois courts have long held that “[a] malpractice claim must be commenced within 2 years from the time the person bringing the action knew or reasonably should have known of the injury for which damages are sought.”  Short v. Grayson et al., No. 16-cv-2150, 2021 WL 4034080, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 3, 2021) (citing 735 ILCS 5/13-214.3(b) (internal citations omitted).  The statute of limitations includes the “discovery rule.”  Id.  Under this rule, the statute of limitations clock starts ticking when the plaintiff knew or should have known that s/he was injured.  Id.  

In this case, the plaintiff, Charles F. Short, III (“Short”), filed a legal malpractice case in federal court in February 2016. After amending his complaint five times, the Fifth Amended Complaint named all three of Short’s former attorneys (and two of their law firms) as defendants and claimed that each breached their duty of care by failing to assert successful claims.  Id. at *4.  Short’s initial complaint was filed two and a half years after the termination of his state court case.

The Northern District held that Short knew that his state court case was dismissed with prejudice on October 4, 2013, and thus he knew “he suffered a defeat.”  Id. at *6.  At this time, Short “knew everything he needed to know to point fingers at” his former lawyers.  Id.  Short’s failure to file his legal malpractice claim by October 4, 2015, is therefore dispositive. 

Charles F. Short, III, v. Brad S. Grayson, 2021 WL 4034080

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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