By Casey Auttonberry
No one enjoys being sued. But for lawyers, being sued for malpractice does not just mean potential monetary damages; it is also likely to damage the lawyer’s reputation. Fortunately, the Louisiana Legislature has attempted to give lawyers at least a little peace of mind. Louisiana Revised Statutes section 9:5605 has been described as “A Louisiana Lawyer’s Best Friend.”1 This is largely because the time periods set forth by the statute protect the lawyer if the client does not act quickly:
A. No action for damages against any attorney at law duly admitted to practice in this state . . . shall be brought unless filed in a court of competent jurisdiction and proper venue within one year from the date of the alleged act, omission, or neglect, or within one year from the date that the alleged act, omission, or neglect is discovered or should have been discovered; however, even as to actions filed within one year from the date of such discovery, in all events such actions shall be filed at the latest within three years from the date of the alleged act, omission, or neglect.2
Section 9:5605(B) makes the one-year and three-year limitation periods peremptive.3 Peremption is similar to prescription, but in practice it can be a very different creature. Unlike prescription, peremption cannot be “renounced, interrupted, or suspended.”4 Also, when a prescriptive period runs, the cause of action is merely barred; when a peremptive period runs, the cause of action is destroyed entirely.5 Considering these characteristics of peremption, it is easy to see why section 9:5605 is regarded as a friend to attorneys.