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Dismissal on Summary Judgment in New Jersey Personal Injury Case Based on Statute of Limitations

Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers LLP recently secured a summary dismissal of the defendant in a personal injury case by appositely arguing New Jersey’s evolving precedent governing statutes of limitations.  The dismissal implicated the interplay between considerations of interjurisdictional equity and New Jersey’s policy of repose.

The plaintiff timely filed suit in New York state court for personal injuries that he allegedly sustained as a result of the New Jersey-based defendant’s negligence.  New York jurisdiction was facially valid because the defendant had a branch office in New York.  The parties proceeded with initial discovery, during which two years elapsed from the date of incident.  The defendant then moved for dismissal based on the plaintiff’s execution of a contract that vested exclusive jurisdiction for all claims against the defendant in New Jersey.  The New York court granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the New York suit.

New Jersey Statute of Limitations

Approximately four months after the dismissal of the New York suit, the plaintiff re-filed in New Jersey.  By that point, approximately two-and-a-half years had elapsed from the date of incident.  On behalf of the defendant, we immediately moved for summary dismissal based on New Jersey’s two-year statute of limitations for tortious negligence.  The plaintiff argued the timely initiation of his New York suit equitably tolled New Jersey’s statute of limitations.  New Jersey’s statutes of limitations are predicated on the public policy of repose, which promotes stability and finality by ensuring that potential defendants will not be subject to suit after the lapse of time has caused the loss of evidence or dulled witness recollections. 

Comprehensive Analysis and Persuasive Argument Secure Appropriate Adjudication

By synthesizing applicable state and federal case law, MSZL&M successfully argued that the plaintiff’s filing of the New York action only tolled New Jersey’s statute of limitations through the date that dismissal of the New York suit became final, at the expiration of the time for the plaintiff to seek reargument or appeal of the dismissal order.  Until that time there was a possibility that dismissal would be reversed on reargument or appeal; per precedent the defendant could therefore not be secure in its entitlement to repose. 

However, after the New York dismissal became final repose inured to the defendant and it could not reasonably anticipate being hauled into another jurisdiction’s court at some indefinite point in the future.  Relevant case law indicates that if the plaintiff had re-filed in New Jersey before the thirty days in which to seek reargument or appeal of the New York dismissal lapsed, the New Jersey statute of limitations would have been equitably tolled.  Since the plaintiff did not re-file within that time, New Jersey’s statute of limitations precluded a subsequent New Jersey action.

Contact Our Firm Regarding Questions About Jurisdiction or Timeliness

There is a dearth of direct New Jersey precedent relative to interjurisdictional equity, and comprehensive analysis and persuasive argument are necessary to ensure appropriate adjudication.  If you have questions or concerns about jurisdiction or timeliness, contact Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers LLP.

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