The Texas Court of Appeals has reversed a trial court’s Order, granting a law firm and two of their attorneys’ motion to dismiss a legal malpractice action. The Defendants had asserted that Plaintiff’s legal malpractice action was barred by the statute of limitations. While the trial court had not specified its reasons for granting the motion, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court had abused its discretion.
The legal malpractice case arose from a 1992 suit in which several parties had sued the Plaintiff, seeking a declaration of rights regarding a water well. The Defendants in the present legal malpractice action had represented the Plaintiff. Plaintiff lost the case and appealed. During the pendency of his appeal, the Plaintiff filed for bankruptcy. In January, 1998, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed, in part, and remanded.
On July 31, 2002, the Plaintiff filed his legal malpractice action against the Defendants. That suit was subsequently dismissed in July, 2011 for lack of prosecution and final judgment entered on July, 2013. On June 24, 2015, Plaintiff re-filed his legal malpractice claim. The trial court dismissed, assessed sanctions of $8,500 and awarded attorneys’ fees to Defendants, designating the Plaintiff as a “vexatious litigant”.
The Texas Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, determining that the trial court abused its discretion in granting Defendants’ motion to dismiss. Under Texas law, relying on the ‘bright line’ rule, the statute of limitations is tolled until final judgment enters in the underlying case. Because the final judgment in the 1992 Matter did not enter until July, 2013, the dismissal and sanctions were not appropriate. In reversing the trial court’s Order, the Court of Appeals also reversed the prior Order, sanctioning and designating the Plaintiff as a “vexatious litigant”.
The case is: Ghidoni v. Skeins, Jr.
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