Failure to Return Clients’ Documents Covered by Two-Year Statute of Limitations

Novack and Macey LLP

Novack and Macey LLP

The law firm Deer, Stone & Maya (“DSM”) represented Carlos Rocha and Arize 11, Inc. (together “Plaintiffs”) in various matters related to their business with FedEx.  Id. at ¶13. Plaintiffs sued DSM for conversion, among other things, claiming that DSM failed to return certain legal files to them.  Id. at ¶79.  DSM moved to dismiss this claim as untimely, and the motion was granted.

On appeal, DSM maintained that the conversion claim was governed by the two-year statute of limitations for acts or omissions in performance of professional legal services. Id. at ¶82.  The appellate court agreed, citing various allegations in the complaint such as when the plaintiffs “made repeated demands of DSM for the sale agreement and other documents […] and neither Deer nor Stone complied.”  Id.  Moreover, the plaintiffs’ brief described the conversion count as “aris[ing] solely from the DSM Defendants’ assumption of unauthorized control and dominion over undisbursed amounts deposited in DSM’s client trust account for Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ legal files and other documents never returned on account of DSM’s unsubstantiated claim for fees.”  Id., (emphasis added by court).

As for whether the statute of limitations had passed, the court noted that the allegations in the plaintiffs’ conversion count were similar to the allegations in a termination letter Rocha sent to Jeffrey Deer of DSM in May, 2012.  Id. at ¶85.  Thus, “the statute of limitations period against the DSM defendants commenced at the latest in May 2012, when Rocha sent the termination letter.”  Id.  Plaintiffs countered that the statute of limitations should have tolled in this matter due to their need for discovery, but they cited no case law supporting this assertion.  Id. at ¶86.  Consequently, the argument was forfeited.

Rocha v. FedEx Corp., 2020 IL App (1st) 190041

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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