California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.6 - Interpretation

Code of Civil Procedure section 340.6 provides: "An action against an attorney for a wrongful act or omission, other than for actual fraud, arising in the performance of professional services shall be commenced within one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the facts constituting the wrongful act or omission, or four years from the date of the wrongful act or omission, whichever occurs first." ( 340.6, subd. (a).) In Radovich v. Locke-Paddon (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 946, a potential beneficiary of a will sued the drafting attorney for malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty when the client, the plaintiff's wife, died without executing the will. Without deciding the issue, the court assumed pursuant to the parties' agreement that section 340.6 applied to the breach of fiduciary duty claims. (Radovich v. Locke-Paddon, supra, 35 Cal.App.4th at p. 966.) Stoll, supra, 9 Cal.App.4th 1362 and Quintilliani v. Mannerino (1998) 62 Cal.App.4th 54, also cited by Portner, support our conclusion that section 340.6's applicability is confined to legal malpractice actions. The court in Stoll held that a client's claim for breach of fiduciary duty which arose in the context of an attorney's representation in a legal matter was covered by section 340.6. (Stoll, supra, 9 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1368-1369.) In Quintilliani, which held section 340.6 inapplicable to a claim for negligence based on the defendant attorney's deficient provision of administrative consulting services, the court stated: "An attorney who undertakes to provide both legal and nonlegal services to a client, and who is sued because of deficiencies in performing the nonlegal services may not claim the protection of section 340.6 because 'the California statute does not include actions for wrongs by the defendant that were not committed as an attorney . . . the statute only applies to the performance of legal services.'" (Quintilliani v. Mannerino, supra, 62 Cal.App.4th at p. 65, quoting 2 Mallen & Smith, Legal Malpractice (4th ed. 1966) 21.8, pp. 763-764.)