Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Appropriate Statute of Limitations for Counterclaim for Property Damages in Auto Accident Litigation

In the case of Conrad v. Donly, No. 2011-Civil-4828 (C.P. Lacka. April 19, 2012 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed the issue of whether the statute of limitations period applicable to a Plaintiff’s personal injury claim in an automobile accident litigation also governs the statute of limitations for a Defendant’s counterclaim for property damages arising out of the same accident.

In a detailed analysis, Judge Nealon noted that the law on this issue provides that the applicable statute of limitations depends on whether the counterclaim is characterized as a “set off” or a “recoupment.”
In this case, the original Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings with respect to the counterclaim asserted by the original Defendant. The Plaintiff asserted that the counterclaim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

The original Defendant asserted that the property damage counterclaim was a “recoupment” which was not subject to the statute of limitations.  The Defendant more specifically asserted that she was entitled to pursue her cause of action for property damage and obtain a recoupment against any award recovered by the Plaintiff in her capacity as a Plaintiff.

Judge Nealon reviewed the law and determined that the counterclaim for property damages in an automobile accident case was instead more properly defined as a “set-off” that would be governed by the same two year statute of limitations applicable to the Plaintiff’s personal injury claim. Since the counterclaim was not filed within two years of the date of the accident, the counterclaim was found to be barred by the Court.

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may click on this link.

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