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Appellate Division Rules in Published Decision That Supreme Court’s COVID Omnibus Order Did Not Toll the Statute of Limitations

By on June 17, 2022 in Statute of Limitations with 0 Comments

Previously, I reported on an unpublished decision, Sutton v. Babilonia, in which the issue was whether the Second Omnibus COVID 19 Order extended plaintiff’s statute of limitations.  The Appellate Division ruled in that case that this order did not extend the statute of limitations but, rather, found that the time period of March 16, 2020 to May 10, 2020 was treated as a legal holiday.  Now, in the published Appellate Division decision of Barron v. Gersten, 2022 N.J. Super. LEXIS 88 (App. Div. June 13, 2022), the Appellate Division has ruled that the Supreme Court’s Fourth Omnibus Order, issued on June 11, 2020, did not toll the statute of limitations.

Plaintiff Juan Barron was in an automobile accident on June 21, 2018.  His two year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit expired on June 21, 2020.  However, he did not file his complaint until June 29, 2020, eight days after the expiration of the statute of limitations.  The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice for the plaintiff’s failure to commence the lawsuit on a timely basis.  The defendants argued that plaintiff filed the lawsuit after the two year statute of limitations and had not pleaded any exceptions or justifications that would extend or toll the statute of limitations.

In opposition, the plaintiff argued that the Supreme Court had tolled the statute of limitations in its June 11, 2020 Fourth Omnibus Order, which had the effect of adding to the statute of limitations 55 additional days to file a complaint.  The defendants, however, contended that this order did not expand or extend the statute of limitations but it had deemed March 16, 2020 through May 10, 2020 a holiday for purposes of calculating court filing deadlines.

The motion judge granted defendants’ motion and entered an order dismissing the complaint with prejudice.  The judge found that there was no dispute that the cause of action began to accrue on June 21, 2018 and that the plaintiff filed his complaint eight days after the two year statute of limitations expired.  Further, the motion judge held that the omnibus orders of the Supreme Court did not add time to statutes of limitations, as argued by the plaintiff, but, instead, deemed the time period of March 16 through May 10 as being the same as a legal holiday for purposes of computing any statute of limitations. 

The plaintiff appealed that decision to the Appellate Division.  The Court noted that the plaintiff did not assert equitable tolling applied to the late filing of his complaint, nor did he invoke the doctrine of substantial compliance.  Instead, he argued that he filed his complaint on a timely basis because the Supreme Court had tolled the statute of limitations in its June 11, 2020 Fourth Omnibus Order.

The plaintiff did not rely on any of the Court’s prior omnibus orders but relied solely on the Fourth Omnibus Order.  The plaintiff argued that the Court’s language used in its June 11, 2020 Fourth Omnibus Order ordered something different than it had ordered in its prior omnibus orders and with that order added 55 days to the two year statute of limitations.

The Appellate Division disagreed with this argument.  It found that the Supreme Court in its Fourth Omnibus Order gave no indication that it was amending or revising its prior omnibus orders as to the computation of time.  Rather, the Court clearly stated that it was affirming the provisions of its prior orders.  Therefore, the Appellate Division found that the Court was not ordering anything new or different than it had ordered in its prior omnibus orders.

Hence, the Appellate Division found that the time period ultimately determined to be March 16, 2020 through May 10, 2020 was deemed a legal holiday pursuant to the Court’s constitutional rule making authority.  Thus, the Appellate Division affirmed the motion judge’s decision, dismissing the complaint for failure to comply with the statute of limitations.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020 and 2021, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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