Tuten v. Joel (SC Ct. App. August 27, 2014) – terminating a practice does not take a lawyer off the hook

In this malpractice action, client sued both the new lawyer (Glover) and the old lawyer (Joel). Both are held responsible for missing the statute of limitation.

The Court of Appeals reminded lawyers that an effective withdrawal requires not only court permission but a clear communication to the client of the termination of the representation. If the lawyer is going to retain a fee interest in the case, care must be taken to avoid responsibility for the malpractice of any successor lawyers.

The court held that  “Joel … [did not take] any action to end his attorney-client relationship with Tuten. To the contrary, the only communication Tuten received came from Glover. Glover’s letter informed Tuten ‘this change should not affect you in any way.”‘Significantly, Glover’s letter stated, ‘Mr. Joel will receive 1/3 of all attorney’s fees generated on your case.’ Glover’s letter contains no explanation of how Joel could receive an attorney’s fee for not being Tuten’s lawyer.”

Read the full decision


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