1 IN THE SUPERIOR COURT FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS BANK OF SAIPAN, as executor of the Estate of Larry L. Hillblom, Civil Action No Plain tiff, DECISION AND ORDER v. DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS CARLSMITH BALL WICHMAN CASE & ICHIKI, and DAVID R. NEVITT Defendants. I. INTRODUCTION Defendants Carlsmith Ball, formerly Carlsmith Ball Wichman Case & Ichiki, and David R. Nevitt (collectively, Carlsmith bring this motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the two year statute of limitations has run. The Bank of Saipan ( Executor argues that attorney malpractice and breaches of fiduciary duty fall under a six year statute of limitations which has not yet run. The court, having reviewed all briefs, declarations, exhibits, and having heard and considered the arguments of counsel now renders its written decision. [p. 2] II. FACTS Larry Lee Hillblom ( Hillblom died on or about May 21, 1995 in a plane crash off the waters of Saipan. 1 In his 1982 will, Hillblom nominated the Bank of Saipan to serve as executor of his estate. Carlsmith initially became involved in this matter at the request of Mr. Peter J. Donnici 1 [C]ourts are generally required to follow legal decisions of the same or a higher court in the same case... Wabol v. Villacrusis, 4 N.M.I. 314, 318 (1995. This court has taken judicial notice of prior decisions made that involve the same subject matter, though are entitled with different action numbers, and follows the factual findings previously made. FOR PUBLICATION
2 ( Donnici, one time legal counsel to DHL, the air express company established by Hillblom. At his death, Hillblom owned approximately sixty percent (60% of DHLC, the domestic U.S. company and twenty-two percent (22% of DHLI, the international company. Donnici currently serves as a board member of DHLI. After performing services for Donnici, Carlsmith was engaged to represent the Executor. By an August 20, 1996 order, the Superior court, sitting in probate, found conflicts of interest and breaches of duty by Carlsmith which led it to disqualify Carlsmith from representing the Executor. In addition, the court suspended the Bank of Saipan as executor of the estate of Larry Hillblom. The court did permit Carlsmith to continue to represent the suspended Executor on pending appellate litigation through November 29, While attempting to settle malpractice claims out of court, the parties drafted a tolling agreement, effective June 12, The tolling agreement provided that the Executor would refrain from bringing an action until notice provisions were met. In exchange, Carlsmith agreed to waive the statute of limitations or laches defense and toll the applicable statute of limitations during the agreement. On July 9, 1998, the Executor gave written notice it intended to terminate the tolling period and filed this action for malpractice against Carlsmith on September 8, III. ISSUES 1. Whether this action is governed by the two year or the six year statute of limitations. [p. 3] 2. Whether the continuing representation doctrine tolled the statute of limitations. 3. Whether the tolling agreement is enforceable. IV. ANALYSIS When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted under Com. R. Civ. P. 12(b(6, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and its allegations are assumed to be true. Bolalin v. Guam Publications, Inc., 4 N.M.I. 176 (1994. Dismissal is improper unless the court is absolutely certain that the plaintiff can prove no
3 set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Govendo v. Micronesian Garment Mfg., Inc., No (N.M.I. Sept. 10, Carlsmith argues that the two year statute of limitations applies to legal malpractice actions. 7 CMC 2503 states in part: The following actions shall be commenced only within two years after the cause of action accrues:... (d Actions for injury to or for the death of one caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, or a depositor against a bank for the payment of a forged or raised check, or a check which bears a forged or unauthorized endorsement. This subsection shall not apply to actions for injury to the former Saipan Credit Union or its depositors, shareholders, investors, or guarantors on account of their interest therein; provided, that such actions are brought within 10 years of the date of discovery of the injury. If 7 CMC 2503 does not apply, then the six year statute of limitations provided by 7 CMC 2505 will apply. In Mariana Islands Airport Authority v. Ralph M. Parsons, Co., the court analyzed 6 TTC 303(4, the predecessor and source of authority for 7 CMC C.R. 181 (D.N.M.I. Tr. Div The Trust Territory Code two year statute of limitations included: [a]ctions for injury to or for the death of one caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another..., or a depositor against a bank for the payment of a forged or raised check, or a check which bears a forged or unauthorized endorsement. 6 TTC 303(4 [p. 4] The Parsons court held that because the language of 6 TTC 303(4 referred to human beings, the statute only applied to personal injury and wrongful death actions. Id at 185. This holding was later adopted by the Appellate Division of the District Court, which found it persuasive and well thought out. Magofna v. Estate of Rufina Castro, 1 C.R. 685, 690 (D.N.M.I. Ct.App (app. dism., December 7, 1983, 9 th Cir.. Recently, the Federal District Court, in applying CNMI law to third party claims for 2 Cases published by the Commonwealth Reporter are cited as legal authority in the CN MI. Com. R. Civ. P. 83.2(a. Further, CNMI courts have relied on interpretations of Trust Territory statutory language when in terpreting similar provisions in the C ommonwealth Co de. See Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America, 48 U.S.C. 1801, Sec tion 5 05; Robinson v. Robinson, 1 N.M.I. 81, 88 (1990.
4 malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and tortious breach of contract, found that 7 CMC 2503 encompassed all torts or injuries to the person. Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Camacho, Civ. Action No , (U.S.D.C. N.M.I. Oct. 28, In expanding CNMI law, the District Court compared a California statute identical to 7 CMC 2503 and resulting California case law. Id. The District Court found that the claims of malicious prosecution and abuse of process were considered injuries to the person, and were therefore subject to the two year statute of limitation. Id. at 3. In addition, the claim of tortious interference with contract was found to be a repeat of [the] claim for abuse of process, and also considered a personal injury. Id. at 4. Although the District Court s decision is not formally binding on this court, this court respects its opinions. 3 Accordingly, because there may be different interpretations of Parsons, this court will look to the statute itself. First, it is necessary to look to the plain meaning of the language of 7 CMC Nansay Micronesia Corp. v. Govendo, 3 N.M.I. 12 (1992. As the Parsons court reasoned, any reference to death must necessarily involve a person. Mariana Islands Airport Authority v. Ralph M. Parsons, Co., 1 C.R. 181 (D.N.M.I. Tr. Div The word one is linked in the sentence structure to both death and injury. As a result, the words one and another must refer only to personal injury or wrongful death actions. Id. The only missing element in the Parsons analysis, which was discerned by the District Court, was a clear definition for the words personal injury. Personal injury claims can encompass many types of tort claims. When the Parsons court held that 6 TTC 303(4 only applied to personal injury and wrongful death, it did not specifically limit the types of actions which encompass personal injury. When examining a statute, interpretations that defy common sense or lead to absurd results [p. 5] should be avoided. Commonwealth Ports Auth. v. Hakubotan Saipan Enters., Inc., 2 N.M.I. 212 (1991. The District Court correctly found that personal injury claims may include actions which sound in tort. Therefore, determining whether an action is a personal injury under 7 CMC 2503 requires an examination of the type of action filed. An action for legal malpractice, though it can be regarded as a tort, should be treated as a 3 See Milne v. Hillblom, No (U.S. Ct. App., 9 th Cir. Jan. 19, 1999.
5 contract action for purposes of the statute of limitations. Most tellingly, the lawyer-client relationship springs out of a contractual relationship. See Helfand v. Gerson, 105 F.3d 530, 538 (9 th Cir In Helfand, the court, in applying Hawaiian law, cited to Higa v. Mirikitani, which reasoned that the fundamentally consensual quality of the attorney-client relationship, and also the usually intangible nature of any injury resulting therefrom suggests a contractual statute of limitations. Id. at 538, citing Higa v. Mirikitani, 517 P.2d 1, 5 (1973. This court agrees that attorney malpractice springs out of a contractual relationship and must be treated as such for a statute of limitations analysis. Further evidence that the legislature did not intend to include legal malpractice in 7 CMC 2503 is the provision for claims of medical malpractice. Part (c states that the following shall be commenced within two years: Actions for malpractice, error, or mistake against physicians, surgeons, dentists, medical or dental practitioners, and medical or dental assistants. 7 CMC 2503 The clarity of the words as well as the internal cohesion of the sections of a piece of legislation are determinative of its meaning as a whole. Pressley v. Capital Credit & Collection Service, 760 F.2d 922 (9 th Cir. 1985; see In re Estate of Rofag, 2 N.M.I. 18 (1991. The fact that the legislature purposely included medical malpractice yet did not mention legal malpractice is significant. The six year statute of limitations exists to include all causes of action not enumerated by the legislature. 7 CMC Professional malpractice is a recognized cause of action with a separate statutory provision in many states. By not specifying a professional malpractice cause of action, while very specifically enunciating other types of actions included, the legislature has expressed an intent to exclude legal malpractice from 7 CMC Accordingly, legal malpractice actions are not included within 7 CMC 2503 because they are not considered a personal injury for statute of limitation purposes and they were not intended to [p. 6] be included by the legislature. As a result, the applicable statute of limitations is 7 CMC Whether Carlsmith s representation of the Executor ended on August 20, 1996 by Superior Court order or on November 29, 1996, the last appellate appearance, this action has been brought well within the applicable six year statute of limitations.
6 V. CONCLUSION Carlsmith s motion to dismiss is denied for the reasons stated above. Because the six year statute of limitations applies, it is not necessary for the court to reach the other issues raised. So ordered this 3 day of March, /s/ Edward Manibusan EDWARD MANIBUSAN, Presiding Judge
PUBLISHED OPINION Case No.: 94-3344 Complete Title of Case:RICKI A. RITT, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. DENTAL CARE ASSOCIATES, S.C., GREGORY C. SKELDING, D.D.S., AND ST. PAUL FIRE & MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY,
Filed 1/15/13 San Jose v. Los Angeles County MTA CA2/2 NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions
In the Superior Court of Pennsylvania No. 1836 EDA 2011 CHRISTOPHER L. GIDDINGS, ESQUIRE, individually and as an agent and/or principal of Christopher L. Giddings, P.C., v. DANNY ELMORE, ESQUIRE, individually
ROBERT KENNEDY, NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION File Name: 13a0388n.06 Plaintiff-Appellant, No. 12-3049 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VETERANS
W. JEFFREY ROBINS, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. STEVEN R. KUHN et al., Defendants and Respondents. No. G043752. Court of Appeals of California, Fourth District, Division Three. Filed May 24, 2011. W. Jeffrey
****************************************************** The officially released date that appears near the beginning of each opinion is the date the opinion will be published in the Connecticut Law Journal
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF MAINE JAMES CUMMINGS, ) ) Plaintiff ) ) ) Civil No. 05-206-P-C v. ) ) WESTPORT INSURANCE COMPANY, ) ) Defendant ) RECOMMENDED DECISION ON MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON
Fed Tort Claims Act, Attorney Dissertation, Finch McCranie LLP. By Richard W. Hendrix A REFRESHER ON THE FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT: HOW TO SUE THE UNITED STATES The Federal Tort Claims Act was enacted by
Committee on Judiciary Issue Description The Florida Senate Interim Report 2012-132 November 2011 INSURANCE BAD FAITH Florida s bad faith law allows an insured person or someone who has been injured by
Case: 13-10589 Document: 00513046323 Page: 1 Date Filed: 05/18/2015 IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT LINCOLN GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff - Appellant Cross-Appellee United
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS STATE OF ARIZONA DIVISION ONE VALDER LAW OFFICES, an Arizona Professional Corporation, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant/ Appellant, v. KEENAN LAW FIRM, an Arizona Professional Corporation,
FOR PUBLICATION UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT ANDRE LEGRAS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN, Defendants-Appellees.
RENDERED: MARCH 5, 2010; 10:00 A.M. TO BE PUBLISHED Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals NO. 2007-CA-002112-MR STEVEN H. KEENEY APPELLANT APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT v. HONORABLE MARTIN F.
STATE OF IDAHO County of KOOTENAI ss FILED AT O'Clock M CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Deputy IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF KOOTENAI SKY CANYON
Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo Prosecutorial Ethics California League of Cities May 2004 I. Introduction The Los Angeles City Attorney s Office ( Office ) is a dual function office responsible
FOR PUBLICATION ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: W. BRENT THRELKELD DEAN ARNOLD ASHLIE K. KEATON KATHERINE G. KARRES Threlkeld & Associates Ken Nunn Law Office Indianapolis, Indiana Bloomington,
Page 1 1 of 1 DOCUMENT AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff, v. DENNIS MARLOW, JOAN A. ROCKOUSKI, DUANE SANDERS, and SHIRLEY A. SANDERS, Defendants. Civil Case No. 07-cv-02180-PAB-MEH UNITED
United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division. BLUE HERON BEACH RESORT DEVELOPER, LLC, Plaintiff, v. BRANCH BANKING AND TRUST COMPANY, Defendant. Scott Randolph, Orange County Tax Collector,
1 1 Entered on Docket June, EDWARD J. EMMONS, CLERK U.S. BANKRUPTCY COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA Signed and Filed: June, DENNIS MONTALI U.S. Bankruptcy Judge UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT NORTHERN
Illinois Official Reports Supreme Court In re Estate of Powell, 2014 IL 115997 Caption in Supreme Court: In re ESTATE OF PERRY C. POWELL (a/k/a Perry Smith, Jr.), a Disabled Person (Robert F. Harris, Cook
Illinois Official Reports Appellate Court Stefanski v. City of Chicago, 2015 IL App (1st) 132844 Appellate Court Caption District & No. Filed Rehearing denied NELLI STEFANSKI, Individually and on Behalf
IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF PHILADELPHIA COUNTY FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA CIVIL TRIAL DIVISION JOHN FRAZIER HUNT, : DECEMBER TERM, 2004 Plaintiff, : No. 2742 v. : (Commerce Program) NATIONAL
STATE OF IDAHO ) County of KOOTENAI ) ss FILED AT O'Clock M CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Deputy IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF KOOTENAI JUDITH
Case: 14-4048 Document: 24-2 Filed: 08/25/2015 Page: 1 RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION Pursuant to Sixth Circuit I.O.P. 32.1(b) File Name: 15a0207p.06 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH
SIXTH DIVISION March 19, 2010 1-09-0502 CONTINENTAL CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. DONALD T. BERTUCCI, LTD., and DONALD T. BERTUCCI, Defendants-Appellants (Lourdes Rodriguez, Defendant). JUSTICE
FOR PUBLICATION ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DAVID J. BEACH MALLORY R. INSELBERG Eichhorn & Eichhorn, LLP Hammond, Indiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: KEVIN P. McGOFF KARL L. MULVANEY ALEX E. GUDE Bingham Greenebaum
Case 2:06-cv-04587-AB Document 186 Filed 06/16/10 Page 1 of 33 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA BENJAMIN A. POST, Plaintiff ST. PAUL TRAVELERS INSURANCE CO.,
No. 2-08-0639 Filed: 3-23-10 Corrected 4-14-10 IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS SECOND DISTRICT CYNTHIA NICHOLSON, as Executor of ) Appeal from the Circuit Court the Estate of Hildegard Janota, Deceased,