Statute of Limitations for Limited Tort Lawsuits May Be Extended

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held in the case of Varner-Mort v. Kapfhammer, 2015 Pa. Super. 14 (January 21, 2015)  that the statute of limitations for limited tort lawsuits begins when the plaintiff discovers that the alleged injuries are “serious.”  Thus, the status of limitations does not necessarily begin on the date of the accident.

In this case, the plaintiffs were subject to limited tort and were involved in a motor vehicle accident on May 6, 2009.  Plaintiffs filed their complaint on June 27, 2011.  The statute of limitations was asserted in defendant’s New Matter.  Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint as untimely.

Defendant argued that plaintiff was aware of her accident-related injuries from the date of the accident and that she treated for these injuries through 2011.  As such, plaintiffs were required to file their complaint by May 6, 2011. Since the complaint was not filed on or before that date, defendant alleges that plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

Plaintiffs argued that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until plaintiff discovered that she sustained a “serious injury,” which would be when she underwent an MRI on August 13, 2009. Therefore, there was a genuine issue of material fact as to when plaintiff discovered that she sustained a “serious injury,” and the motion for summary judgment should be denied.  The trial court granted summary judgment on the statute of limitations issue, finding that plaintiff was put on notice that she suffered a serious injury on the day of the accident. Plaintiffs appealed to the Superior Court.

In a majority decision, the Superior Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to when plaintiff was aware she had a serious injury.  The Superior Court relied upon the case of Walls v. Scheckler, 700 A.2d 532 (Pa. Super. 1997), which held that the statute of limitations in limited tort cases should start to run when a plaintiff is aware that he or she may have sustained a “serious injury.”   However, the Superior Court noted that while they were bound to follow the Walls decision, it felt the Walls decision to be “wrong.”

An application for re-argument was filed on February 3, 2015, and withdrawn on March 3, 2015.

David R. Friedman

Office: King of Prussia, Philadelphia
Phone: (610) 977-4106
Email: dfriedman@forryullman.com
Practice Areas: Commercial Litigation, Coverage, Fraud/SIU, General Liability, Premises Liability, Products Liability, Third Party, UM/UIM