The consequences of missing the statute of limitations – even by only one day – can be dire, as illustrated by the recent Delaware Superior Court case of Vicks v. Justison Landing Apartments, C.A. No. N16C-01-063-ALR (Rocanelli, J.) (Order, April 28, 2016). The full opinion can be read here: http://courts.delaware.gov/opinions/
The plaintiff, a tenant in an apartment complex owned and managed by the defendant, filed suit on January 11, 2016 for physical injuries she sustained on January 10, 2014 when she slipped and fell on ice outside the apartments. Defendants moved to dismiss based on the two-year statute of limitations for bringing personal injury claims. The two-year statute of limitations is set forth in Section 8119, Title 10 of the Delaware Code: “No action for the recovery of damages upon a claim for alleged personal injuries shall be brought after the expiration of 2 years from the date upon which it is claimed that such alleged injuries were sustained[.]”
The Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, concluding that “although plaintiff’s complaint was filed only one day after the statute of limitations, it was nevertheless filed outside the applicable statute of limitations and is untimely.” The Court further noted that:
“While the Court is cognizant of the public policy favoring resolution of cases on their merits, and that dismissing a claim that has been filed only one day after the statute of limitations may be harsh, the Court is satisfied that even if this matter were to proceed, Plaintiff’s claims have no merit under the Continuing Storm Doctrine. Specifically, at the time that Plaintiff suffered her alleged injuries, Defendant did not owe Plaintiff any duty to remove snow or ice at the Apartments because a winter storm was ongoing. Accordingly, because Plaintiff’s claims are time-barred and Plaintiff cannot succeed on the merits of her claims, Defendant’s motion to dismiss with prejudice must be granted.”
Thus, it appears that the Court dismissed the case for two reasons: (1) because the plaintiff’s claim was time-barred under the statute of limitations; and (2) because the Plaintiff would not have been able to prevail anyway, due to the Continuing Storm Doctrine.
Even though the Court appeared to give a second rationale for dismissing the case, the decision still illustrates the importance of filing your complaint within the applicable statute of limitations.