Tennessee Adds Five Year Statute of Repose for Attorney and Accountant Malpractice Claims

Posted on Jun 29 2014 9:22PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee legislature recently passed a law that now provides a five year statute of repose for any malpractice claims against accountants or attorneys.  The Tennessee Legislature in the 2014 Tennessee Legislative Session passed Public Chapter No. 618 making this change to existing Tennessee law.  This statute takes effect July 1, 2014 and applies to all acts or omissions of malpractice by accountants or attorneys that occur on or after July 1, 2014. 


T.C.A. § 28-3-104 is modified to add a new subsection (c).  The new subsection in the statute provides as follows:


(c)(1) Actions and suits against licensed public accountants, certified public accountants, or attorneys for malpractice shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued, whether the action or suit is grounded or based in contract or tort.

(2) In no event shall any action or suit against a licensed public accountant, certified public accountant or attorney be brought more than five (5) years after the date on which the act or omission occurred, except where there is fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant, in which case the action or suit shall be commenced within one (1) year after discovery that the cause of action exists.


As you can see, there is still a one year statute of limitations for suits against accountants and attorneys for malpractice from the date the cause of action accrued (the discovery rule applies in Tennessee to these causes of action so that can extend the statute of limitations well beyond 1 year from the actual act or omission).  However, the new five year statute of repose is now found in subsection (c)(2) which basically provides that once five years passes from the date of the act or omission which constituted malpractice, no claim can be brought against the accountant or attorney. 


There is one exception to this new statute of repose.  That exception is when there is “fraudulent concealment” by the attorney or accountant.  In this situation the claim must be commenced within one year after the discovery that the cause of action exists.


This new statute of repose can effectively eliminate many causes of action before the client knows that such cause of action exists (this is often the case with a statute of repose).  For instance, if an attorney drafts a will incorrectly and then five years passes before the death occurs, then nobody will even know of the malpractice before the potential claim is eliminated by this new statute.  My interpretation of this statute is that once five years passes after the drafting of wills, contracts or other legal documents, then no cause of action can be brought against the attorney if the documents are later found to be faulty.  This is a significant new protection afforded to attorneys in Tennessee, most significantly to those practicing estate planning law.


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TAGS: 2014 Tennessee Legislation, Defenses, Torts, Statute of Limitations, Statute of Repose
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com