Mississippi Court of Appeals: A Bar Complaint Does not Toll the Statute of Limitations on a Legal Malpractice Claim

The Mississippi Court of Appeals recent decision in Archer v. Creefound holds that a client’s state bar complaint against a lawyer does not toll the statute of limitations on that client’s legal malpractice claim. Regardless of the bar proceedings, the beginning of the life of a legal malpractice claim is when the client learns of his or her lawyer’s negligence or malpractice.

The case arose from the following facts. In 2010, Mary Archer hired an attorney, Mitchell Creel, to represent her brother in post-conviction proceedings. She eventually fired him and filed a bar complaint about a breach of contract. The bar complaint was dismissed in 2012. She then filed a legal malpractice lawsuit.

In Mississippi, there is a three-year statute of limitations on legal malpractice claims, and the clock begins to run on the first day the client is aware of his or her lawyer’s negligence.

Nonetheless, Archer argued that a client must wait to sue until after an administrative remedy, such as the bar complaint, is exhausted. Her reasoning was that a lawsuit is untimely when it is filed during the pendency of bar proceedings.

However, both the Mississippi trial court and the Mississippi appellate court disagreed with Archer finding that the clock on the statute of limitations runs independently of a bar complaint. Thus, in Archer’s case, the statute of limitations began running when Archer fired her lawyer, based upon allegations of bar violations and malpractice, rather than after the bar complaint was dismissed.

To read the full opinion of Archer v. Creel, click here.

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