ANDREA MEYERS v. LIVINGSTON, ADLER, PULDA, MEIKLEJOHN & KELLY, P.C., SC 18996
Judicial District of Hartford
Torts; Contracts; Legal Malpractice; Whether Allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint Against Defendant Law Firm set Forth a Cause of Action Sounding in Breach of Contract, and, if so, Whether Action was Barred by the Applicable Six Year Statute of Limitations. The plaintiff brought this action by a single count complaint against the defendant law firm, which had represented her in an earlier lawsuit that resulted in a settlement. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant's representation of her in the earlier suit was unprofessional in that the defendant "breached its contract duties" to her by bringing about a settlement that was in furtherance of the interests of another client and contrary to her interests. She thus claimed that the defendant was not entitled to the attorney's fees that it received for representing her in the previous suit. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the action sounded in tort and was barred by the applicable three year statute of limitations or, in the alternative, that the action sounded in contract and was barred by the six year statute of limitations for contract claims. The trial court granted the defendant's motion, ruling that the action claimed both legal malpractice and breach of contract and was barred by both the three year and the six year statutes of limitations. In affirming the trial court's judgment, the Appellate Court (134 Conn. App. 785) found that although the plaintiff had invoked contract language in her complaint, her claim was for professional negligence. It reasoned that a true contract claim asserts that a defendant breached an agreement to obtain a specific result and that, here, the plaintiff did not allege that the defendant breached its contract for legal services by failing to obtain a specific result or failing to perform a specific task. It determined that the gravamen of the plaintiff's complaint was an allegation that the defendant breached its professional duties and that such allegation fit squarely within the definition of a malpractice claim. It next found that because the plaintiff's sole cause of action sounded in tort, the action was barred by the three year statute of limitations. Moreover, it found that even if the plaintiff's complaint set forth a contract claim, summary judgment was appropriate because the action was not brought within the six year statute of limitations. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly found that the allegations of the plaintiff's complaint failed to set forth a cause of action for breach of contract. If the answer to that question is in the negative, the Supreme Court will then decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that summary judgment was appropriate even if the complaint set forth a contract claim.