Statutes of repose, statutes of limitation, procedural statutes of limitation, statutes which “merely suspend[s] the remedy.” Confused yet?
That question led to a dismissed legal malpractice case concerning whether California Code of Civil Procedure § 366.3 is a statute of limitation. The question came up in Matter of Cassini Decided on February 13, 2020 Appellate Division, Second Department.
“This appeal is one of several arising out of a protracted and vigorously contested probate proceeding involving the estate of the internationally renowned fashion designer Oleg Cassini (hereinafter the decedent), who died in March 2006. In 1952, the decedent and his then-wife Gene Tierney entered into a “Property Settlement Agreement” (hereinafter the PSA) that was incorporated by reference into a California final judgment of divorce entered April 7, 1953. In the PSA, the decedent agreed to leave by testamentary disposition at least one-half of his net estate to his daughters Daria Cassini (hereinafter Daria) and Christina Cassini (hereinafter Christina), in equal portions. Pursuant to a choice-of-law provision, the PSA was to be construed and interpreted in accordance with California law.
The decedent’s last will and testament did not include testamentary dispositions leaving at least one-half of his net estate to Daria and Christina. After the decedent died in 2006, Marianne Nestor Cassini (hereinafter Marianne), the decedent’s widow, was issued letters testamentary as the executor of his estate. Christina filed a claim asserting her entitlement to 25% of the decedent’s net estate, and petitioned for a determination as to the validity and enforceability of her claim. Marianne moved to dismiss Christina’s claim, and Christina cross-moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability. The Surrogate’s Court, inter alia, granted Christina’s cross motion for summary judgment, and this Court affirmed (see Matter of Cassini, 95 AD3d 1311).
Marianne subsequently commenced an action to recover damages for legal malpractice in the Supreme Court based, inter alia, on the failure of the estate’s attorneys to raise in the Surrogate’s Court proceeding the defense that Christina’s claim was barred by California Code of Civil Procedure § 366.3. That statute provides that actions to enforce claims arising from a promise or agreement with a decedent to distribution from an estate may be commenced within one year after the date of death (see Cal Code Civ Proc § 366.3[a]). In a decision and order dated August 23, 2017, this Court affirmed the grant of a motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss portions of the legal malpractice complaint (see Nestor v Putney Twombly Hall & Hirson, LLP, 153 AD3d 840). In doing so, this Court concluded that California Code of Civil Procedure § 366.3 is a procedural statute of limitations, and not a statute of repose, and thus was inapplicable to the Surrogate’s Court proceeding in New York (see Nestor v Putney Twombly Hall & Hirson, LLP, 153 AD3d at 842-843). Accordingly, this Court concluded that raising that statute in the Surrogate’s Court proceeding would not have resulted in a determination that Christina’s claim was barred (see id. at 842).”