Monday, November 26, 2018

Discovery Rule Related to Statute of Limitations Reviewed

The discovery rule pertinent to the statute of limitations was reviewed in the case of Vidra v. Hertz Corp., No. 18-2939 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 2018 Beetlestone, J.)(mem.op.).  

This case arose out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred in 2012.  The Plaintiff, who was pro se, asserted that he had rented a Camaro from Hertz and that, due to a defect in the vehicle, the rental vehicle suddenly accelerated outside of his control and was involved in an accident. 

Two people in the other vehicle involved in the accident died in the accident  The Plaintiff was convicted of homicide by vehicle and sentenced to 22 years in prison. 

The Plaintiff continued to assert a defect with the vehicle and alleged that Hertz did not cooperate in his efforts to uncover the defect.

The Defendants removed the Plaintiff's state court Complaint to federal court and filed a motion to dismiss.

In this matter, the court ruled that it was apparent on the face of the Plaintiff’s Complaint that the statute of limitations had run.   The Plaintiff pled in his Complaint that he had complained about a product defect to the police at the time of the accident, but waited more than six (6) years to file a lawsuit.

The court noted that traumatic injuries from a motor vehicle accident are immediately apparent, triggering a Plaintiff’s inquiry notice, such that the statute of limitations begins to run immediately.   The court stated that, as automobile accidents are specific events, a burden is placed upon the injured party to determine whether the other parties involved in the accident might be liable for any potential injuries.

The court found that an argument of fraudulent concealment did not apply in this matter because, even if the Defendants had refused to respond to the Plaintiff’s inquiries, the Defendants did nothing to cause the Plaintiff to relax his vigilance in determining the cause of his injuries.   

The court additionally noted that silence cannot be considered to be fraud unless there is an affirmative duty to disclose due to a fiduciary or similar relationship between the parties.   In this regard, the court stated that product sellers do not have a special relationship with product consumers in this context.  

Anyone wishing to review of a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The companion Order can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm from bringing this case to my attention.

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