One of the most common concerns among Florida personal injury victims is when they must file their claim. Typically, all personal injury claims must be brought within a certain amount of time, which is outlined in the statute of limitations. However, the rules differ when cases name state or federal government entities. Recently, a federal appellate issued a written opinion discussing whether a claim brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act is tolled while the plaintiff is a minor.
According to the court’s opinion, when the plaintiff was five years old, his father was killed in a car accident on an interstate highway. The plaintiff’s mother filed a timely administrative claim with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) claiming that a highway barrier that had failed during the accident was not adequately tested or approved for use. Five years after the accident, and while the plaintiff was still a minor, the plaintiff’s mother filed a personal injury case against the FHWA in federal district court on behalf of the plaintiff.
The Federal Tort Claims Act
Generally, the federal and state governments are immune from tort liability. However, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), specific lawsuits can be brought against the U.S. government and its subdivisions. To bring such a lawsuit, plaintiffs must comply with strict procedural requirements. Among these requirements is a two-year statute of limitations.
The Government’s Defense
The FHWA defended against the plaintiff’s claim by arguing that the plaintiff’s mother filed the claim too late. The plaintiff claimed that the FTCA statute of limitations should be tolled – or should not begin to run – until he was an adult.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and held that claims brought under the FTCA are not subject to minority tolling. The court acknowledged that under a recent case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a statute-of-limitations defense is not jurisdiction in nature. Thus FTCA claims may be subject to equitable tolling. However, the court indicated that a showing that the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the accident is not enough, on its own, to establish a claim of equitable tolling.
The court explained that the general rule is that a statute of limitations is applicable against all parties – even minors – unless explicitly stated. Here, there was no language in the FTCA indicating that lawmakers intended for minority tolling to apply to claims under the FTCA. Thus, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claim and dismissed it as untimely.
Have You Been Injured?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to the negligence of a state or federal government employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims in all types of claims, including Florida car accidents and cases brought against government entities and employees. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to set up a free consultation at your convenience.
More Blog Posts:
What Is an Attractive Nuisance under Florida Personal Injury Law?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 21, 2019.
Liability in Florida Sports Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 14, 2019.