Judgment for an Anderson attorney who allegedly failed to act in his client’s post-conviction relief case for nearly seven years after collecting a nearly $25,000 retainer was upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The panel affirmed a trial court ruling that the ex-client’s legal malpractice claim was time-barred.
Anthony French hired criminal defense lawyer Jeffrey Lockwood to represent him in a post-conviction proceeding in February 2010. French alleged he paid a $24,981.25 retainer to Lockwood, who then filed an appearance with the post-conviction court and French’s petition for relief.
However, French claimed that four years went by with no movement in the case on Lockwood’s end. French additionally received no response to a letter stating he would file a civil suit against Lockwood if the attorney didn’t start working on the case or refund French his money.
French ultimately retained other counsel and filed a complaint against Lockwood with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. Lockwood then filed with the postconviction court his motion for leave to withdraw his appearance for French.
When French filed a complaint for legal malpractice against Lockwood in February 2018, Lockwood moved to dismiss under Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6). The complaint, Lockwood alleged, was time-barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations.
The Madison Circuit Court agreed, entering judgment in Lockwood’s favor. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Friday, finding the trial court did not err in entering its judgment. The appellate court determined that by August 30, 2015, French knew he had sustained injury as a result of Lockwood’s conduct, and the statute of limitations had therefore begun.
It further rejected French’s assertion of that the complaint was timely filed under the continuous representation doctrine.
“French filed his complaint on February 21, 2018, which was two years and two days after the latest possible date that his attorney-client relationship with Lockwood had terminated. Thus, French’s complaint was untimely as a matter of law,” the appellate court concluded in a Friday memorandum decision.
The case is Anthony W. French v. Jeffrey A. Lockwood (mem. dec.), 18A-PL-2385.