Seth J. Robbins provided expert commentary in a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article on whether an attorney timely filed a fee collection lawsuit against a former medical malpractice client who discharged the attorney in 2010.
The Supreme Judicial Court is weighing whether the lawsuit was filed before the expiration of the six-year statute of limitations for contract claims. The attorney filed the complaint in July 2016, more than six years after his medical malpractice client terminated him.
However, the attorney is arguing that the six-year deadline didn't commence until 2012 when the former client ultimately settled the case and obtained money from which fees could be paid to him under the contingent fee agreement.
The attorney asserts that the fee agreement entitles him to compensation based on a $350 hourly rate in the event of being discharged from representing the client.
Mr. Robbins told the publication that the time period for a breach of contract claim is not usually affected by whether a plaintiff knows the full extent of damages at the time of the breach.
"I think where the court is having a problem [with the attorney's argument] is that the longer it takes for the case to get resolved, perhaps the harder it can be for the client or even successor counsel to defend against the fee petition," Mr. Robbins said.
The inability of a client to pay, he said, will not likely persuade the SJC to start the limitations period when an underlying medical malpractice suit results in a settlement or favorable judgment.
A partner at Todd & Weld LLP, Mr. Robbins has a wide and varied civil litigation practice, including handling commercial litigation matters.
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