Statute of Limitations

July 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Statute of Limitations


Rice vs. Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, 2018 PA Super. LEXIS 576, 2019 Pa Super. 186, 2019 PA. 186, Opinion by Judge Kunselman.  In 2016, Renee A. Rice read the 37th Investigative Grand Jury Report detailing a systematic cover-up of pedophile clergy in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.  She sued the Dioceses Bishop Adamec, and Monsignor Michael E. Servinsky. (“the Diocesan Defendants”) a few months later.  She alleges that they committed fraud, constructive fraud, and civil conspiracy to protect their reputations and that of Reverend Charles F. Bodziak, her childhood priest and alleged abuser.  Because Fr. Bodziak allegedly molested Ms. Rice in the 1970s and 1980s, the trial court, relying on this Court’s precedents and the statute of limitations, dismissed her lawsuit.  Claiming the trial court misapplied the discovery rule, the fraudulent-concealment doctrine, and the statute of limitations for civil conspiracy, Ms. Rice appealed.  Ten months later, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided Nicolaou vs. Martin, 195 A.3d 880 (Pa. 2018).  The High Court emphasized the jury’s prerogative, under the discovery rule, to decide whether a plaintiff’s efforts to investigate a defendant were sufficiently reasonable to toll the statute of limitations.  Nicolaou has opened the courthouse doors for Ms. Rice’s case to proceed past the pleadings stage, notwithstanding this Court’s precedents to the contrary.   Also, Mr. Rice’s alleged circumstances allow her to argue to the finder of fact that the Diocesan Defendants owed her a fiduciary duty to disclose their ongoing cover-up and Fr. Bodzaik’s history of child molestation.  By failing to disclose, the Diocesan Defendants’ silence may have induced Ms. Rice to relax her vigilance or to deviate from her right of inquiry.  The trial court, therefore, erred by not permitting her case to proceed according to her fraudulent-concealment theory.


Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court. The False Claims Act contains two limitations periods that apply to a civil action under Section 3730 that is, an action asserting that a person presented false claims to the United States Government. 31 U.S.C. §3731(b). The first period requires that the action be brought within 6 years after the statutory violation occurred. The second period requires that the action be brought within 3 years after the United States officia charged with the responsibility to act knew or should have known the relevant facts, but no more than 10 years after the violation. Whichever period provides the later date serves as the limitations period. This case requires us to decide how to calculate the limitations period for qui tam suits in which the United States does not intervene. The Court of Appeals held that these suits are civil action[s] under Section 3730 and that the limitations periods in 3731 (b) apply in accordance with their terms, regardless of whether the United States intervenes. It further held that, for purposes of the second period, the private person who initiates the qui tam suit cannot be deemed the official of the United State. We agree, and therefore affirm. Cochise Consultancy vs. United States ex rel. Hunt, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 3400.


Kowalski v. TOA Pa. 2019 Pa. Super LEXIS 281 (March 27, 2019) Bowes, J.-The Superior Court affirmed the entry of judgment on trespass claim against Condo Association, reversed the order of nominal damages and remanded for new trial as to the damages on the Condo Association’s cross claim against TOA. Brian Kowalski owned property downhill from Liberty Hill’s Condominiums. Mr. Kowalski sued for surface water run-off. Mr. Kowalski said that the trial court erred in concluding that his breach of contract and negligence claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court’s termination that the breach of contract claim expired in 2011 and was therefore barred by the four year statute of limitations was sustained. Likewise, the two year statute of limitations for negligence was sustained. The record did not evidence a permanent change or permanent injury to Mr. Kowalski’s property as the result of the increased surface water flowing from the Liberty Hills Development. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s entry of judgment against the Condo Association because of a continuing trespass that included an overflowing pond they didn’t do anything about. The trial court determined entry of nonsuit on the trespass claim was error because Mr. Kowalski established that excess water run-off from the Liberty Hills constituted a continuing trespass. Liability should have been opposed against TOA for the continuing trespass. Section 1621 of the Restatement of Torts clearly provided for the imposition of liability on TOA, as an entity which developed Liberty Hills and constructed the storm water management system in a manner which caused excess surface water to flow onto Mr. Kowalski’s property.  Liability is subject to the applicable statute of limitations. Mr. Kowalski commenced the action July 2013. His recovery is limited to the actual injury suffered during the two years prior to the filing of the action. TOA is not liable for specific continuing trespass claim encompassed by the present action. It is not responsible. 


Morse v. Fisher Asset Mgmt., LLC, 2019 Pa. Super. LEXIS 244 (March 15, 2019) Murray, J.-Dismissal of an arbitration action for statute of limitations purposes was proper. There was no stay where the court had previously granted POs. When the complaint was filed in 2009, appellant could have sought enforcement of the arbitration agreement by filing POs or Petition to Compel Arbitration. If the Petition to Compel had been filed, and the court granted it, the matter would have included a stay of proceedings. However, appellees filed preliminary objections seeking dismissal. The court agreed with appellees that when the court sustained the POs and dismissed the complaint in 2009, the action was not stayed. No appeal was filed either.  


Rotkiske v. Klemm,  No. 16-1668 (3d Cir. May 15, 2018), Hardiman, C.J.

This appeal requires us to determine when the statute of limitations begins to run under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA or Act), 91 Stat. 874, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. The Act states that “[a]n action to enforce any liability created by this subchapter may be brought in any appropriate United States district court . . . within one year from the date on which the violation occurs.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d). The United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and Ninth Circuits have held that the time begins to run not when the violation occurs, but when it is discovered. See Lembach v. Bierman, 528 F. App’x 297 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam); Mangum v. Action Collection Serv., Inc., 575 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2009). We respectfully disagree. In our view, the Act says what it means and means what it says: the statute of limitations runs from “the date on which the violation occurs.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d).



Blanyar v. Genova Products, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 11685 (3rd Cir. June 30, 2017) Vanaskie, C.J.  Under Pennsylvania law, the statute of limitations for a medical monitoring claim is two (2) years.  The discovery rule tolls the statute of limitations during the plaintiff’s complete inability, due to facts and circumstances not within his control, to discover an injury despite the exercise of due diligence.  The statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knows or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known:  (1) that he has been injured; and (2) that his injury has been caused by another’s conduct.  Plaintiff must use all reasonable diligence to inform himself or herself of the relevant facts.  In a medical monitoring case, the injury occurs when plaintiff is placed at a significantly increased risk of contracting a serious blatant disease.  Thus, for the discovery rule to apply appellants must not have known and reasonably could not have discovered the dangers of chemical exposure two (2) years before the filing of their complaint.  Because none of the appellants have alleged that they have suffered any ill effects due to their work at the chemical plant, they may not be foreclosed from bringing personal injury actions if they later contract diseases related to their alleged occupational exposure.  Although the instant claims for medical monitoring are time barred, the statute of limitations to bring personal injury actions would begin to run anew where appellants manifest symptoms of occupational disease 300 weeks after the last exposure to hazardous substances.


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.


Gilbert v. Synagro Cent., LLC, 131 A.3d 1 (2015).  This case involved interpretation of Right to Farm Act where a biosolid had been placed on farmer’s property.  The trial court, not the jury, is entitled to determine the applicability of whether the statute is one of repose.  The Act permits a nuisance action be brought within one year after a certain event occurs, after the defendant has acted, regardless of when the harm is alleged to have occurred.  This operates as the statute of repose.  Statutes of repose generally are jurisdictional and the scope is a question of law for the courts to determine.  The court found application of biosolids is a normal agricultural operation.  The trial court was within its province in determining the applicability of the statute where application of biosolids was the cause of complaint.  It was to be interpreted as the statute of repose.  Nuisance claims are therefore barred by the statute of repose and summary judgment


McCulligan v. Pennsylvania State Police, 123 A.3d 1136 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015).  McCulligan alleges that detectives and others intentionally violated the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act during the course of an investigation leading to the plaintiff’s incarceration.  Preliminary objections were sustained, and the petition for review was dismissed.  The action under Section 5725 of the Wiretap Act is barred by the statute of limitations.  The statute of limitations is two years.  Two-year period commences after the plaintiff learned of the alleged unlawful wiretapping.  It was more than two years in this case.  Therefore, the case was properly thrown out.


The statute of limitations under the IDEA requires parents to file a due process complaint no more than two years after the parents knew or should have known about the alleged deprivation; that is, within two (2) years of the reasonable discovery of that violation.  The court concluded, after careful consideration, that the statute reflects a 2-year filing deadline for due process complaint after reasonable discovery of an injury and the statute neither imposes a pleading requirement nor in any respect alters the court’s broad power under the IDEA to provide a complete remedy for the violation of the child’s right to a free appropriate public education.  G.L. v. Ligonier Valley School District Authority, 802 F.3d 601 (3rd Cir. 2015).


An appeal was taken from dismissal of sexual battery claim.  In the Court of Appeals, it was urged that the discovery rule tolled the statute of limitations for federal claims and that Pennsylvania’s longer statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse should have applied to the sexual battery claims.  Without the discovery rule, civil redress would be unavailable to those victims of child pornography who are unaware during the statutory period of the distribution of visual depictions of their sexual abuse.  Congress intended Section 2255 to create a remedy for those victims.  The structure and text of Section 2255 supports recognition of the discovery rule for the claims.  Nevertheless, the federal claims are not preserved.  Unfortunately the victim was aware for more than two years of the infliction of the injury and the person who did it.  The victim did not bring suit until after the 6-year statute of limitations had expired, and also more than three years after the victim became an adult.  Therefore the discovery rule did not aid him at all.  New York law does not help the victim either.  Stephens v. Clash, 796 F.3d 281 (3rd Cir. 2015).


Township appealed from decision against it under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.  The court, however, applied the statutory grant and reduced the verdict.  The court dismissed the challenge that notice was not provided under 5522 of the Judicial Code.  The record reveals that the association did not become aware of the cause of the sediment problems in time to comply with the statute.  The statutory cap under 8553 of the PSTCA is legal and constitutional.  The verdict was properly molded downward.  The jury could find that the township’s improvements resulted in a dangerous condition which created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injuries suffered by the Association and the township could be reasonably charged with notice under these circumstances.  Hence the trial court did not err in failing to conclude that the Association’s plaintiff’s claims were barred by the immunity granted.  The trial court did not err in failing to grant a directed verdict, set aside the verdict, award a new trial or enter judgment in its favor.  The court addressed motions in limine with respect to expert testimony.  The court disagreed with the school district’s claim that the judgment was barred by the immunity provision of the PSTCA under the real property exception.  The exception applied.  The statutory cap is not unconstitutional.  Glencannon Homes Association v. North Strabane, 116 A.3d 706 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015).



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