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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. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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