Newell not that new

The standard may be new, but the outcome is recycled.

As discussed here and here, Newell Recycling of Atlanta, Inc. v. Jordon Jones Goulding, Inc. was deemed a game changer when it came to statute of limitations in professional liability claims.  Attorney Defender predicted that such calls were likely overblown.  That has proven to be true – at least so far.  The Supreme Court opinion reversed the Court of Appeals for holding that all professional liability claims were subject to the four-year statute of limitation for contracts that were partially parole.  The case was remanded for reconsideration.

The Court of Appeals has now reconsidered, and on August 23 held that the contract at issue was parole and thus subject to a four-year limitation period.  In so holding, the Court of Appeals held that the group of documents at issue did not contain all of the necessary provisions of a contract as the documents did not provide for an hourly rate, i.e., the written documents lacked details of the consideration.

In so holding, the Court of Appeals relied on the primary case setting the statute of limitation in legal malpractice cases, Jankowski v. Taylor, Bishop & Lee, 154 Ga.App. 752, 754–755, 269 S.E.2d 871 (1980), a case also cited with approval by the Supreme Court in Newell Recycling. 

Because the parties’ contract was not wholly in writing, the entire contract is considered to be one in parol, and the four-year statute of limitation applies. Jankowski v. Taylor, Bishop & Lee, 154 Ga.App. 752, 754–755 (2, 3) (269 S.E.2d 871) (1980). The trial court properly concluded that Newell’s action was time-barred and properly granted Jordan Jones summary judgment.

Following Newell Recycling, it may be possible to find an attorney-client relationship subject to a written contract with a six-year limitation period.  But in light of the application of Newell and the continued validity of the reasoning in Jankowski, it will likely remain rare.


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