Court Holds Minority Tolling Is Not Available for California Claims Under the FTCA
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal appeals court for all California district courts) recently considered a case in which a plaintiff argued that his claim should have been tolled when he failed to timely file while he was a minor.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s father died in a car accident in February 2005, when the plaintiff was nine years old. The plaintiff’s mother filed a claim against the U.S. Federal Highway Administration in May 2011, on behalf of the plaintiff and other potential beneficiaries. The claim in that lawsuit was that the highway barrier was not tested and approved according to the Federal Highway Administration’s rules. The plaintiff was sixteen years old when that suit was filed.
The Statute of Limitations Under the Federal Tort Claims Act
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) requires that plaintiffs exhaust certain administrative remedies before filing a case in court. Under the FTCA, in order for a plaintiff can bring a tort claim against the United States for the negligence of U.S. agencies and employees, a plaintiff must first file a claim with the relevant federal agency and receive a decision from that agency. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b), a claim must be made to the agency within two years “after such claim accrues.” In addition, if the agency denies the claim, a claim must be presented in court within six months (beginning on the date of mailing of the denial of the claim).
The Court’s Decision
In this case, the plaintiff’s mother failed to present the claim to the federal agency within two years of the claim’s accrual, and a federal court dismissed the case for that reason. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations should be tolled in his case. That is, the requirement that he file within two years of the accrual of the claim should not apply to him because he was a minor at the time. If a claim accrues when a plaintiff is a minor, the statute of limitations is often tolled, or suspended, until the plaintiff turns of age. The reasoning is that a minor cannot bring a claim except through a guardian, and the minor’s right to bring a claim should be protected.
However, the appeals court stated that a statute must expressly state that a specific claim is tolled for minors or for other disabilities. Courts have found that a statute must expressly provide for an exception because if the statute fails to provide for an exception it is assumed that parents and guardians are adequate surrogates. Here, the court reasoned that the FTCA does not provide an exception for minors, and therefore, the statute of limitations could not be tolled in the plaintiff’s case.
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See Related Posts:
Court Determines California University Is Not Responsible for Injury at Fraternity Party, California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 25, 2019.
California Appellate Court Dismisses Medical Malpractice Claim Based on Inadequate Expert Declaration, California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 11, 2019.