Blowing a statute of limitation or a deadline is the quickest way to turn your client problem into the attorney’s problem. This is one of the most common preventable errors that can be counted on to turn into an attorney malpractice claim. In fact, in a recent blog about getting coverage rescinded, it started in part from a missed deadline.
In this particular case, the client had hired Attorney Doerr of Berman Sauter Record & Jardim to represent him over defective construction work on his property. The case was dismissed on summary judgement when attorney Doerr failed to obtain an expert report by the agreed-on deadline.
In the original complaint Doerr client was suing various parties over the design and building of a retaining wall that cracked and budged upon completion. The wall was needed for the construction of a residence on a mountaintop. With no expert report the claim was dismissed. The good news for the former client is that the now defunct law firm of Berman Sauter Record & Jardim has attorney malpractice insurance to cover the claim.
Remember that statute of limitations and deadlines need to be calendared. An attorney’s responsibilities to the client cannot set aside just because the expert did not show up or produce the needed material to meet the deadline. The attorney remains accountable. If the deadline is going to be missed, prompt communication may allow the attorney to extend the deadline. If the attorney cannot meet the deadline, the client must be promptly notified and the file properly documented.
Finally, do not have information as to whether the claim was made against the law firm prior to its closing down or after, but this is also a reminder that it is very important for a firm that is dissolving to purchase an Extended Reporting Period Endorsement (Tail) for the firm to cover past acts. Claims are made against law firms that no longer exist. Buying a Tail is just one of the many costs of dissolving a law firm. It is a good idea to discuss any plans of closing a law firm prior to it happening with your malpractice insurance agent, to discuss options available for protect past acts.