Dismissed: Motor Vehicle Accident Complaint Filed 8 Days After the Statute Of Limitations Expired
Docket No.: A-0912-20
Decided June 13, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent published decision, the Appellate Division upheld the dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint for being filed 8 days after the Statute of Limitations expired, even during the height of COVID-19.
In Barron v. Gersten, the accident occurred on June 21, 2018. The complaint was filed on June 29, 2020, eight days after the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations enacted by our Legislature in N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2(a).
Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint with prejudice for failure to commence the action timely. Defendants argued plaintiff had filed the lawsuit after the two-year statute of limitations had run and had not pleaded any exceptions or justifications that would extend or toll the statute of limitations. In opposition,1 plaintiff argued the Supreme Court had tolled the statute of limitations in its June 11, 2020 Fourth Omnibus Order, having the effect of adding to the statute of limitations fifty-five additional days to file a complaint. In reply, defendants contended the Supreme Court had not expanded or extended the statute of limitations but had deemed March 16, 2020, through May 10, 2020, a holiday for purposes of calculating court filing deadlines.
After hearing oral argument, the motion judge granted defendants’ motion and issued an order dismissing the complaint with prejudice. In a decision placed on the record, the judge found “there’s no dispute that the cause of action began to accrue on June 21, 2018” and that “plaintiff filed this complaint eight days after the two-year statute of limitation[s].” The judge held “the Omnibus Orders of the Supreme Court did not add time to statutes of limitations as argued by the plaintiff” but instead “deemed the period of time from . . . March  through May 10 as being the same as a legal holiday for purposes of computing any statute of limitations.” Accordingly, the judge held the two-year statute of limitations had run before plaintiff’s complaint was filed, granted defendants’ motion, and dismissed the complaint.
Plaintiff appealed and the Appellate Division found that the March 17, 2020 order converted every day, from March 16 to March 27, 2020, into a legal holiday. Thus, pursuant to Rule 1:3-1 and the March 17, 2020 order, if a statute of limitations ran on a claim on March 20, 2020, a plaintiff could satisfy the statute of limitations by filing a complaint on Monday, March 30, 2020, the first day after the last day of the time period that was not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. The order did not have the effect of adding days to any statute of limitations.
This case is important to understand the importance of timely filing of lawsuits. Failure to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations period will result in a permanent loss of any right to sue, even if it is just a few days after the deadlines. Here, COVID-19 and the omnibus orders issued by the Supreme Court of New Jersey were not enough to toll the statute of limitations.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, truck crash, or slip and fall, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hark & Hark today. For personal injury matters, no money is paid up front, and fees are only collected if a recovery is made. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.