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Every claim in Oregon has time limitations. When a claim is not filed on time, it is lost forever. This article summarizes some of the statutes of limitations for claims against civil lawyers (not criminal lawyers).

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: Hire a lawyer. This article is no substitute. It skims the surface. Plus, everyone’s situation differs, including claims for minors or elders.


What’s the statute of limitations for legal malpractice in Oregon?

Oregon clients must sue their attorneys within two years from “discovery” of the claim.

What does “Discovery” of a claim mean?

The “discovery” date that starts a statute of limitation can be a complex determination.

First, the attorney must cause client some harm.

If client suffers no harm, then there is no claim. The client need not understand the full extent of the harm, and the problem might even be continuing. But if a reasonable person would know of a problem, that’s enough “harm” or loss for SOL purposes. So, if your lawyer fails to show up for court and the judge awards the other side costs of $100, that’s a harm, even though the case might continue for two more years.

Sometimes, a client will call and complain about an attorney who does not seem to be working hard enough. (I’ll suggest they hire another attorney if they can.) But when it comes to starting the clock on the statute of limitations, there might not yet be a “harm” until the case is lost.

Second, a client must comprehend that lawyer’s negligence caused the harm.

The client must (a) know or (b) “reasonably should have known” the attorney’s negligence caused the harm, whichever is first in time.

The purpose of adding a “reasonable person” standard is to avoid the risk a client will “play dumb.” Ultimately, if there is no clear date on which the client knew the attorney was negligent in a way that cost the client, then a jury might need to decide when a reasonable person should have figured it out. The jury instruction follows”

“To prevail on the statute of limitations defense, the defendant must prove that before [insert applicable date] the plaintiff either knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, facts that would make a reasonable person aware of a substantial possibility that the defendant’s alleged malpractice caused the plaintiff some harm.”

An attorney’s conduct can, in effect, extend the statute of limitations. For example, if the attorney reassured the client the result was “at least as good as we could have expected” even without any screw up, then a reasonable person might not have discovered a claim.

On the other hand, sometimes there’s a date certain, as when responsible attorneys frankly admit they messed up in a letter to the client.

What is the statute of limitations for breach of contract claims against Oregon attorneys?

Generally, a person must sue within six years from breach. However, if the attorney/defendant fraudulently conceals the breach, then six years from “discovery.” The six years is not hard and fast because the parties may specify a different time in their contract.

What is the Oregon statute of limitations for fraud claims against Oregon attorneys?

Two years from “discovery.”

What is the statute of limitations for breach of fiduciary duty against Oregon attorneys?

As of this writing, Oregon law is not clear whether this would be a two-year claim or a six-year claim. To be safe, one should sue within two years of the date of discovery.

The facts could add up to a claim for a breach of the “covenant of good faith and fair dealing” implied in an attorney-client contract, which could make the statute of limitations six years from breach.

If the facts add up to financial abuse of an elder of vulnerable person, then seven years from “discovery.”

What is the Oregon statute of limitations when attorneys wrongfully take money of the client?

In criminal law, it might be “theft.” In civil law, it is called “conversion,” and the statute of limitations is 6 years from “discovery.”

If the facts add up to financial abuse of an elder of vulnerable person, then 7 years from “discovery.” (statute here)

Additional time limitation on all claims: Oregon’s Statute of Repose.

Most time limits start from the time of “discovery” of the claim, and the time deadlines vary depending on the claim.

However, Oregon law imposes an ultimate time cut-off.  The reasons include that after a certain length of time (a) it could be unfair to try to defend because evidence disappears and (b) people need to move on with their lives.

For claims against Oregon attorneys, that ultimate deadline is 10 years from the time the attorney allegedly screwed up, even if you never knew the attorney screwed up. After ten years, we attorneys shred our files.

Finding a lawyer to sue a lawyer.

I represent Oregonians who have valid and substantial claims against their Oregon lawyers. Please feel free to contact me.

Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney

©2018 by Merrick Law, LLC and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.

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