Statute of Repose in North Carolina Personal Injury Claims

soccer-5-1437147-e1490375417501You should consult an attorney as soon as you know you’ve suffered injuries, or you risk facing the loss of your ability to recover for damages based on the statute or limitations as well as the statute of repose.

In an unpublished North Carolina appellate case, the plaintiff appealed from orders that granted a college’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The case arose from an alleged sexual assault of the plaintiff by the college’s soccer coach. According to the plaintiff, the college was aware of other sexual assault claims against the soccer coach, but didn’t take any measures to stop further sexual assaults and didn’t let the police know.

The plaintiff claimed law enforcement officers first contacted him in 2012 and told him that his mother had complained to the college in 1990 about the sexual abuse he’d suffered. He first knew that the college was aware of pre-1990 allegations while meeting with law enforcement officers in 2012.

He sued the college in 2015 claiming negligence, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, negligent retention, fraud, fraudulent concealment, and civil conspiracy. He sued the coach for assault, and sued both parties for negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress, equitable estoppel, and punitive damages.

The college answered his complaint and moved for judgment on the pleadings. The soccer coach filed a motion to dismiss. The judge granted the defendants’ motions noting an earlier case that was on point. The orders stated that the motions were granted due to the expiration of the statute of limitations and statute of repose. The plaintiff appealed the decision with respect to the college only.

The appellate court explained that a motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted if the moving party clearly shows there’s no material issue of fact to be resolved and he’s entitled to judgment in his favor as a matter of law. The college in this case had denied numerous allegations made by the plaintiff, but the motion was granted on the basis of the statute of limitations and statute of repose, about which there were no material issues of fact.

The plaintiff argued that there were factual issues with respect to his fraud and civil conspiracy claims. He further argued that there were issues of fact regarding the date on which his claims accrued and that the statute of limitations began to run from the discovery of fraud or the time it should have been discovered in exercising reasonable diligence. He argued that the earliest possible accrual date for his claims of fraud and civil conspiracy was in 2012, when he was first contacted by law enforcement, and so his claim hadn’t expired when he filed his lawsuit in 2015.

The defendant argued that the statute of limitations for all the claims was tolled by the fraudulent concealment doctrine. However, the plaintiff didn’t address the issue of the statute of repose. The appellate court ruled that the statute of repose barred all of the plaintiff’s causes of action against the college because they all asked for damages based on personal injuries suffered by the plaintiff.

The appellate court explained that for all personal injury causes of action N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-52(16) dictates that no cause of action would accrue more than 10 years from the last act or omission that gave rise to the cause of action. In this case, the last act that was associated with his personal injuries was that his mother had complained about his sexual abuse in 1990. The plaintiff didn’t sue until 25 years after this date.

The appellate court explained that the statute of repose is a condition precedent to a plaintiff’s right to sue. Accordingly, it is on the plaintiff to show that the statute of repose doesn’t bar his lawsuit. The plaintiff argued that the college should be equitably estopped from asserting the statute of limitations and statute of repose. To establish estoppel, he had to show that there was a false representation or concealment by the college that the college intended to have him act upon, and the college had knowledge of the real facts. In this case, there was no evidence that the college acted to conceal information the plaintiff wanted or even that the plaintiff tried to get information from the college. The appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Although the plaintiff was barred from recovery in this case, an employer may be liable for negligent hiring if an employee causes injuries. It is important to pursue your claims against all potentially responsible parties as soon as you realize you have been injured. If you suffered injuries due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another, the experienced North Carolina personal injury team at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

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