A California appellate court has affirmed a ruling sustaining a demurrer of a second amended complaint alleging legal malpractice. In Cakarcan v. Law Offices of Steven Stoler & Assocs., LLP, a client retained an attorney to represent her in her divorce and child custody proceedings. Prior to the conclusion of those cases, the attorney successfully withdrew his representation. The client continued to pursue both actions representing herself pro se. Judgment was entered against her in both cases.
Over two years later, the client filed a legal malpractice action against the attorney for negligently representing her in those actions. After twice amending her complaint, the trial court sustained the attorney’s demurrer without leave to further amend, on the grounds that the complaint was barred by the one year statute of limitations. The client appealed.
Under California law, a legal malpractice claim must be filed within one year of the discovery of the alleged negligent conduct. The period may be tolled for up to four years if the plaintiff is under a legal or physical disability, which prevents the plaintiff from commencing the action. The client contended that she was under such a disability because she was undergoing cancer treatment.
However, the appellate court held that the client’s treatment did not rise to the level of disability required, such as imprisonment or an illness that left a person bedridden, because it did not actually prevent her from brining the action. The court relied on the fact that the client continued to pursue her custody and divorce proceedings while she was undergoing treatment. Therefore, the statute of limitations was not tolled and the claim was properly dismissed.