It's 3 Years, It's 3 Years, It's 3 Years...

Some years ago the Legislature overruled the Court of Appeals, and passed CPLR 214(6). That statute was interpreted to say that all claims against an attorney (some other professionals) were subject to a 3 year statute, whether the claim was made in negligence or contract.

Here, in Walter v Castrataro 2012 NY Slip Op 02676, Appellate Division, Second Department we see a plaintiff unsuccessfully attempting to get the benefit of a typical 6 year statute for breach of contract.

"On April 16, 2003, the plaintiff signed a retainer agreement, wherein the defendant agreed to represent her in a matrimonial action. By letter dated July 1, 2003, the plaintiff terminated the defendant's representation. On June 11, 2009, the plaintiff commenced this action, alleging in [*2]her complaint that the defendant "negligently failed to represent the Plaintiff and breached her duties" and "[a]s a result of the Defendant's breach of contract the Plaintiff has suffered substantial damages[.]" The defendant moved, inter alia, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that the complaint sounded in legal malpractice and, thus, was barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitations (see CPLR 214[6]). In her opposing affidavit, the plaintiff stated that she "may have inadvertently misused language on the Summons and Complaint. However, the object of the said application served upon Defendant asserts breach of contract verbatim and notably, Plaintiff never uses the term Legal malpractice" (emphasis in original). In her affidavit, the plaintiff alleged numerous "breaches" by the defendant in connection with the underlying matrimonial action, including a failure to file an application for pendente lite support, failure to move to vacate a certain forensic report, and failure to "modify" a certain stipulation. The Supreme Court, among other things, granted that branch of the defendant's motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the complaint as time-barred.

The complaint is "nothing more than a rephrasing of the claim of malpractice in the language of breach of contract" (Mitschele v Schultz, 36 AD3d 249, 252). The defendant satisfied her initial burden by demonstrating, prima facie, that the complaint sounded in legal malpractice and that the three-year statute of limitations began to run no later than July 1, 2003 (see Sladowski v Casolaro, 84 AD3d 1056, 1057). In opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact, e.g., by submitting proof demonstrating that the statute of limitations was tolled by the continuous representation doctrine, or otherwise (see Tsafatinos v Lee David Auerbach, P.C., 80 AD3d 749, 750). Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly concluded that the action, commenced almost six years after the alleged legal malpractice was committed, was barred by CPLR 214(6), and, thus, properly granted that branch of the defendant's motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the complaint as time-barred. "
 

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