North Carolina Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Negligence Case Against College On Statute of Repose Grounds

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The statute of limitations places an outer time limit on the filing of certain types of claims, including those arising due to the negligence of a person, business, or governmental entity. Failure to file suit within the applicable time period is usually fatal to a claimant’s suit.

In addition, there may be a statute of repose that further limits the plaintiff’s time for filing suit. Again, failure to meet this important deadline usually results in dismissal of the claimant’s action.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unpublished) case, the plaintiff was a man who filed suit against a college and a coach in 2015, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages due to the coach’s alleged sexual assault on the plaintiff in 1990. The plaintiff asserted several causes of action, including negligence, negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, fraud, fraudulent concealment, civil conspiracy, assault, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and equitable estoppel.

The Mecklenburg County Superior Court granted the college’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and the coach’s motion to dismiss pursuant to North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s order granting the motions, but he later abandoned his appeal as to the coach.

Decision of the Court of Appeals of North Carolina

The court affirmed. With regard to the fraud and civil conspiracy claims, the court noted that the plaintiff argued that the earliest possible accrual date for these claims was July 30, 2012 – three years after he was first contacted by law enforcement – and that he had filed his suit within this time frame. With regard to the plaintiff’s remaining claims, which were grounded in negligence, the court acknowledged that the plaintiff relied upon the doctrine of equitable estoppel to save these claims.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments, ruling that his lawsuit against the college failed under the North Carolina statute of repose. Unlike the statute of limitations, the statute of repose is not an affirmative defense upon which a defendant may rely if it can be proven that the plaintiff did not file suit within the time allowed. Rather, the statute of repose is a condition precedent to a party’s right to maintain a lawsuit.

Given that the statute of repose for personal injury is 10 years under North Carolina General Statutes § 1-52(16) and the plaintiff’s suit was not filed until 25 years after the last act or omission giving rise to the cause of action, his lawsuit was clearly barred by the statute of repose.

The court found the plaintiff’s reliance on prior case law pertaining to equitable estoppel misplaced, noting that there was nothing in his complaint to indicate that he ever attempted to discover any particular information from the college. As stated by the college, there was never any question as to the college’s identity or its relationship with the coach.

Schedule an Appointment with an Experienced Raleigh Negligence Attorney

If you believe that you or a loved one has been hurt by someone else’s negligence or carelessness, the time to take action is now. The helpful Raleigh personal injury law firm of Nagle & Associates is here to help you investigate your case and get your claim filed in a timely manner. Call us at (800) 411-1583 for a fee consultation. We serve the entire state of North Carolina, and someone is always available to take your call.

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