Texas Supreme Court Affirms Appellate Section Win on Tolling Rule for Malpractice Claim
Apr 22, 2022
Appellate partner Cassie Dallas won an argument before the Supreme Court of Texas that our malpractice defendant established a limitations bar in a case that applied the Hughes tolling rule.
Hughes Tolling Rules
In Hughes v. Mahaney & Higgins, the court held that “when an attorney commits malpractice in the prosecution or defense of a claim that results in litigation, the statute of limitations on the malpractice claim against the attorney is tolled until all appeals on the underlying claim are exhausted.” Thus, if both the malpractice plaintiff and a co-party appeal the judgment on the underlying claim, tolling includes the time that the appeal is pending.
Affirming Court of Appeals Judgment
In this case, the Supreme Court of Texas addressed whether Hughes continues to toll the limitations period when a co-party pursues the appeal in a higher court but the malpractice plaintiff does not participate in that stage of the proceedings. The Supreme Court of Texas concluded that the answer is no.
In multi-party cases, Hughes tolling includes only “all appeals” in which the malpractice plaintiff participates. This conclusion is consistent not only with Hughes and its progeny, but also with the court’s precedent regarding relief for non-appealing parties and the goal of drawing clear lines that make it easier to calculate when the statute of limitations will expire. Under this approach, an appeal in Texas courts is “exhausted” and tolling ends when the court rules on the last action taken by the malpractice plaintiff.
Applying those principles, the Supreme Court of Texas concluded that Hughes tolling ended for petitioner’s legal malpractice claim on April 1, 2016, when the Court denied his petition for review of the underlying case. Although petitioner’s co-party sought further appellate review by filing a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States, petitioner did not participate in that proceeding. Because petitioner did not file his suit until October 1, 2018, his claim for legal malpractice is barred by the two-year statute of limitations.
The Supreme Court of Texas agreed with the court of appeals that the malpractice defendant conclusively established the limitations bar, and they affirmed.
Thompson Coe Team
Dallas partners Thomas Annis and Alison Moore handled the trial court case, and Appellate partner Cassie Dallas handled the appeals and arguments in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Texas arguments.