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Fourth DCA reverses circuit's court dismissal of legal malpractice claim and rejects court's finding that the claim was premature

On January 25, 2017, in R.S.B. Ventures v. Berlowitz, No. 4D15-372, the 4th DCA reversed a trial court's dismissal of a plaintiff's legal malpractice claim and rejected the court's finding that the claim was premature. Legal malpractice claims have three elements: (1) the attorney's employment; (2) the attorney's neglect of a reasonable duty; and (3) the attorney's negligence as a proximate cause of loss to the client. The court noted that a cause for legal malpractice in the litigation context does not accrue until the litigation is concluded by final judgment and the final judgment itself becomes final, meaning that the time for filing an appeal or post-judgment motions has expired, or if an appeal has been taken, appellate review has been completed. Although the entirety of the underlying litigation on which the negligence claim was based and the full extent of the plaintiff's damages had not yet been fixed, the 4th DCA ruled that because one of the claims (a foreclosure claim regarding property owned by the plaintiff) had been fully resolved, the plaintiff's professional negligence claim was not premature notwithstanding the fact that no final determination had yet been made with respect to whether the plaintiff was also liable for a deficiency judgment on the mortgage underlying the foreclosed property.