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Judges rule legal malpractice claim untimely

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A family who sued an Allen County attorney after finding out he did not properly obtain ownership of a railroad right-of-way in 1995 lost its appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals because the family’s lawsuit is barred by the statute of limitations.

Ronald Felger served as Fred Dickes’ attorney. In 1995, Felger negotiated with the railroad company in order to get a quitclaim deed to transfer ownership of an abandoned railroad right-of-way on Dickes’ property. But the legal description in the deed actually was the legal description for the interurban right-of-way on Dickes’ property, which he already owned.

Dickes died in 2000, and his family discovered through another attorney in 2006 that they didn’t own the abandoned railroad right-of-way and sued Felger and the firm Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams LLP in 2009 for legal malpractice. Allen Superior Judge Nancy Eshcoff Boyer granted summary judgment to Felger and the firm, citing the two-year-statute of limitations.

Legal malpractice actions are subject to the discovery rule, so the statute of limitations doesn’t begin to run until the time the plaintiffs could have discovered they had been injured by Felger’s actions. Because the family filed their suit on March 5, 2009, if their action happened before March 5, 2007, the statute of limitations would bar their claim.

The designated evidence shows the family should have known no later than June 2006 that they did not own the right-of-way based on property tax issues, a letter Felger sent to the family in February 2006, and correspondence with their attorney Terry Cornelius, who discovered that a title search didn’t reveal any deed transfer to Dickes.

“Plaintiffs were aware that, despite the 1995 negotiations with the railroad and the deed, they in fact did not own the abandoned railroad right-of-way. Further, they were clearly aware that they had been damaged, as the right-of-way was interfering with their proposed development of the property. Although Plaintiffs were not able to definitively point to the wrong legal description on the deed as Attorneys’ exact error until the summer of 2007, they were aware of the issues with Attorneys’ work long before that time,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Byram E. Dickes, Ruth E. Logar, et al. v. Ronald D. Felger, and Shambaugh, Kast, Beck & Williams, LLP, 02A03-1206-PL-302.

 

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  1. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  2. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  3. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

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  5. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

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