NATURE OF APPEAL:
Plaintiff appeals from order sustaining demurrer without leave to amend. The basis of the order sustaining the demurrer was that the action was barred by the statute of limitations. We amend the order of the superior court by adding a paragraph dismissing the action and thereby treat the appeal as one from the judgment of dismissal. (Bellah v. Greenson, 81 Cal.App.3d 614 [146 Cal.Rptr. 535].)
Appellant filed a complaint for malpractice against respondent who, as her lawyer, represented appellant in a divorce action in 1963. The gist of the allegations of appellant's complaint is that when respondent prepared a stipulation, order and judgment, he negligently failed to provide that appellant's former husband would be required to maintain appellant as the irrevocable beneficiary of his life insurance as long as appellant
The allegations of the second amended complaint, which for the purposes of demurrer are deemed true, disclose the following: In 1963 appellant hired respondent to represent her. Respondent prepared a complaint and thereafter prepared a stipulation which was executed by the parties to the divorce action. The terms of the stipulation were incorporated in an order of the court, which in turn became part of the interlocutory judgment entered December 27, 1963. As drafted by respondent, these documents provided that husband was to maintain wife as irrevocable beneficiary on certain group life insurance policies which he owned through his employer, Revell, Inc., provided that wife did not remarry. It was wife's (appellant here) understanding that husband was to maintain these particular policies in wife's favor for the rest of his life, or provide other equivalent insurance coverage whether he continued to be employed at Revell or elsewhere, so long as wife remained unmarried. Respondent, however, negligently drafted the stipulation, order and judgment. He failed to provide that husband would maintain such policies or other comparable policies if he should terminate his employment at Revell, and limited the provisions in the stipulation, order and judgment to simply the policies at Revell. Husband terminated at Revell in September 1969. He went to work elsewhere. At that time the policies had a value of $20,000. Husband did not maintain or convert the policies or obtain others in their place. Shortly thereafter, appellant asked her former husband if she was still covered. He told her that she was. This was not true. Appellant, however, had no information that the policies were not in effect. She thereupon contacted respondent lawyer and asked if something should be done. Respondent advised her that nothing should be done because any effort to ensure the maintenance of the same or comparable insurance policies might result in husband's challenging the alimony and child support payments set forth in the interlocutory judgment. Former husband died in January 1973 and appellant did not receive any insurance proceeds. She has remained unmarried.
It is clear appellant knew in 1973 no insurance proceeds were paid to her. But she alleges she did not discover that she had possible claims and rights against respondent until the spring of 1975 when, in conference with another attorney, Anthony Uribe, concerning a personal injury lawsuit, she related the facts and Uribe advised that she had a case against respondent. On November 4, 1976, within two years of the conference with Uribe, appellant filed her complaint against respondent for malpractice.
We reject appellant's contention and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
The record discloses that at the time of the former husband's death, appellant had knowledge of the alleged facts which gave rise to a cause of action. She knew that she had been damaged. She received no money from any insurance proceeds on husband's death in 1973. She did nothing for more than two years from the date of husband's death.
The legal malpractice statute applicable here is the two-year period established by former Code of Civil Procedure section 339, subdivision 1.
The question here is whether appellant's alleged ignorance of her supposed rights against her former attorney is sufficient to toll the statute of limitations.
This is a case in which appellant had sufficient facts to put her on inquiry. The means of knowledge are equivalent to knowledge. (Gray v.
Knowledge of certain facts triggers the operation of the statute. At bench, these facts allegedly are: (a) the prospective plaintiff has been damaged; she received no money at husband's death; (b) the damage was caused by the negligence of the lawyer. If she has this much information, whether or not the prospective plaintiff knows or believes she has a legal cause of action (discovery of legal theory) is immaterial. (Bellah v. Greenson, supra, 81 Cal.App.3d 614.)
If the contentions advanced by appellant were accepted, the practical effect would be to nullify the statutes of limitations. Any plaintiff could simply allege ignorance of his or her legal rights against a particular defendant. This is not difficult. Most people do not know the legal answers to questions arising from certain circumstances. However, facts and events which inform a person that something is wrong, or should be looked into, are usually recognizable by the ordinary person. One example is pain. Another example is failure to receive money when expected or promised, as at bench. It is the occurrence of some such cognizable event rather than knowledge of its legal significance that starts the running of the statute of limitations.
Roth, P.J., and Fleming, J., concurred.