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As the famous line from Spiderman goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Lawyers are familiar with this notion when representing clients and should take great care to clearly define the scope of their responsibility, in other words the scope of their work, for their clients. One aspect of this scope is when the attorney-client relationship begins and when it ends. This becomes key when facing a suit alleging legal malpractice, which can be complex, especially if the client received various advice and services over time.
The continuous representation rule is a legal concept that results in tolling of a legal malpractice statute of limitations if the lawyer continues representation related to the malpractice. Such was the issue before the Court of Appeals in Titshaw v. Geer, decided on May 24, 2023. In Titshaw, the Court of Appeals analyzed the statute of limitations of Titshaw’s legal malpractice action. The statute of limitations for legal malpractice is generally four years. Titshaw claimed that he received advice on November 10, 2014, from Defendant Cohen Pollock Merlin Turner, P.C. (“CPMT”) to file for bankruptcy. He received the same advice from Defendant Attorney Geer (of the law office of Will B. Geer) on December 26, 2014. Attorney Geer later filed Plaintiff’s bankruptcy actions.
Titshaw did not file his malpractice complaint until January 2019. Titshaw argued that the date Geer filed the bankruptcy petitions was a new act that triggered a new statute of limitations period, and therefore he was within the 4 years. However, the Court ruled that this would be considered the “continuous relationship rule” and held that Georgia does not have a continuous representation rule for legal malpractice cases.
Other states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois also do not recognize the continuous representation rule. New York, however, has a continuous representation rule but only for the specific matter out of which the legal malpractice claim arises.
The Statute of Limitations is a strong defense against legal malpractice, and Titshaw v. Geer further clarifies calculation of the statute of limitations in Georgia.