ROBBINS & SEVENTKO ORTHOPEDIC SURGEONS, INC. v. GEISENBERGER
449 Pa.Super. 367 (1996)
674 A.2d 244
ROBBINS & SEVENTKO ORTHOPEDIC SURGEONS, INC., Appellant,
Jacques H. GEISENBERGER, Jr., S.R. Zimmerman, III, Robert Pfannebecker, and John R. Gibbel, Individually and t/a Geisenberger, Zimmerman, Pfannebecker & Gibbel.
Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Argued January 11, 1996.
Filed February 26, 1996.
Reargument Denied May 1, 1996.
John W. Craynok, West Chester, for appellant.
Kevin Canavan, Philadelphia, for appellees.
Before KELLY and POPOVICH, JJ., and MONTEMURO, J.*
MONTEMURO, Justice, Assigned.
Appellants, Robbins and Seventko Orthopedic Surgeons, Inc., bring this timely appeal from an order granting Appellees', Geisenberger, et al, Motion for Summary Judgment in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County (Georgelis, J.). The issues on appeal concern when the statute of limitations begins to accrue in a legal malpractice action, and whether the trial court erred in failing to apply the equitable estoppel doctrine.
449 Pa. Superior Ct. 370
The relevant factual and procedural history as derived from the trial court's opinion are as follows: In 1976, the Appellants retained the Appellees' law firm to incorporate its practice as orthopedic surgeons, and to prepare and file an employee pension plan with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Appellants allege that the pension plan forms initially submitted to the IRS in September 1977 by Appellee, John Gibbel (Gibbel), were returned with instructions that they be resubmitted. On October 17, 1978, Appellee, S.R. Zimmerman, III (Zimmerman), amended and filed the plan with an Application for Determination. In 1981, the Appellees were discharged by Appellants for reasons unrelated to this case.
On May 4, 1983, the Appellants were informed by the IRS that the pension plan had failed to qualify, and that deductions made to it in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 were disallowed. Appellants through their new counsel, Michael Kane, and accountant, James Rottmund, filed an administrative appeal with the IRS. On October 8, 1986, the Appellants reached a settlement with the IRS and submitted a Form 870-AD, Waiver of Restriction on Assessment and Collection (waiver). The IRS agreed to accept the amendments to the plan filed by Mr. Kane for 1978 and 1979. However, it refused to accept the amendments which related back to the years 1976 and 1977. On September 22, 1986, the IRS notified the Appellants that the waiver (Form 870-AD) had been accepted, and that its case, for tax years 1976 through 1979, was closed.
The Appellees were originally notified of the problem with the pension plan through a letter from the IRS dated February 24, 1986. On April 15, 1986, the Appellees informed the Appellants that they believed the IRS's objections to the plan were simple to amend. In January 1987, the Appellees agreed to hire another firm, Dechert, Price & Rhoads (Dechert), to amend the plan, and negotiate on behalf of the Appellants. On May 7, 1987, the Appellees forwarded a power of attorney, executed by the Appellants, to Dechert.
On January 21, 1988, the Appellees were contacted by Dechert and informed that the Appellants were precluded from amending and resubmitting the plan by their submission
449 Pa. Superior Ct. 371
of the waiver form. On December 12, 1988, the Appellants began this action through a Writ of Summons, filing a complaint on December 22, 1989. The complaint alleged that the Appellees were negligent in preparing and filing the employee pension plan with the IRS for the 1976 and 1977 tax years. The Appellees filed a Motion for Summary Judgment contending that the action was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court granted the motion giving rise to the instant appeal.
The Appellants raise the following issues for our consideration: