July 24th, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Statute of Limitations

Application of the Minor Tolling Statute and the Statute of Limitations in a Sexual Abuse Case

S.J. v. Gardner, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 511 (July 11, 2017) Stevens, P.J.E.  S.J., a minor, by and through her guardians, B.J. and C.J. (collectively “Appellants”) appeals the order entered by the Honorable Angela R. Krom of the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County, granting Appellee Calvin M. Gardner’s cross-motion for summary judgment and dismissing S.J.’s civil action for damages caused by the sexual abuse perpetrated on her by Appellee. Appellants specifically contend that the trial court erred in finding S.J.’s action was time-barred and that the Minority Tolling Statute did not toll the relevant statute of limitations. We reverse the order granting summary judgment and remand for further proceedings. 

Appellants argue that the trial court incorrectly found that S.J.’s parents, who filed this lawsuit on S.J.’s behalf, could not invoke the protection of the Minority Tolling Statute and were still required to comply with the two-year statute of limitations applicable to intentional torts. The trial court suggested that the statute must only be applied to allow minors to wait until they reach the age of majority (eighteen years old) to file such an action in their individual capacity as adults, when their parents failed to do so on their behalf within the applicable statute of limitations.  The trial court’s interpretation of the Minority Tolling Statute is incorrect and conflicts with existing decisional law in which our courts have previously interpreted the same provision. 

In other words, the limitations period for a minor’s claim is measured from the time the minor turns eighteen, irrespective of the date the cause of action accrues and regardless of whether the action is filed by the minor’s guardians or by the minor in his or her individual capacity once he or she turns eighteen. See Czimmer v. Janssen Pharm., Inc., 122 A.3d 1043, 1060–61 (Pa.Super. 2015), reargument denied (Oct. 26, 2015). J-A11032-17 – 7 – Thus, in the instant case, the applicable time period for S.J. to file this civil suit against Appellee did not begin to run when S.J. revealed to her parents that she had been subjected to Appellee’s sexual abuse. Although this discovery marked the accrual of S.J.’s cause of action, the limitations period for S.J.’s claim was suspended until S.J.’s eighteenth birthday pursuant to the Minority Tolling Statute. Thus, S.J.’s parents commenced this lawsuit on S.J.’s behalf before the period of limitations began to run. 

We reject the trial court’s suggestion that the Minority Tolling Statute should be interpreted to require S.J. to wait until she turns eighteen to pursue her legal action against Appellee for childhood sexual abuse.  Accordingly, this civil action, which S.J.’s parents filed on minor S.J.’s behalf, was not time-barred as the Minority Tolling Statute had suspended J-A11032-17 – 9 – the applicable statute of limitations.2 For the foregoing reasons, we conclude the trial court erred in granting Appellee’s motion for summary judgment.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]



Article Categories