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Tennessee’s One Year Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Extended to Two Years when Criminal Charges are Brought

Posted on Sep 13 2015 7:04PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The 2015 Tennessee legislature passed Public Chapter No. 388 that extends the typical one year statute of limitation for personal injury causes of action (as well as other cause of actions) in certain situations.  This new law went into effect for all causes of action that accrue on or after July 1, 2015.   This statute basically extends the typical one year statute of limitations for cases involving personal injury, libel, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and compensatory or punitive damage claims under Federal Civil Rights statutes.  In order to take advantage of the two year statute of limitations extension, a criminal charge must be brought pertaining to the incident in question within one year of the incident by (1) a law enforcement officer; (2) a District Attorney General; or (3) a grand jury.  This statute only operates to extend the statute of limitations for the person injured by the criminal conduct. 

 

The entire new statute subsection (found in T.C.A. § 28-3-104(a)) provides as follows:

 

(a)(1) Except as provided in subdivision (a)(2), the following actions shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued:

(A) Actions for libel, injuries to the person, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, or breach of marriage promise;

(B) Civil actions for compensatory or punitive damages, or both, brought under the federal civil rights statutes; and

(C) Actions for statutory penalties.

(2) A cause of action listed in subdivision (a)(1) shall be commenced within two (2) years after the cause of action accrued, if:

(A) Criminal charges are brought against any person alleged to have caused or contributed to the injury;

(B) The conduct, transaction, or occurrence that gives rise to the cause of action for civil damages is the subject of a criminal prosecution commenced within one (1) year by:

(i) A law enforcement officer;

(ii) A district attorney general; or

(iii) A grand jury; and

(C) The cause of action is brought by the person injured by the criminal conduct against the party prosecuted for such conduct.

(3) This subsection (a) shall be strictly construed.

 

This statute is significant because it can potentially allow plaintiffs to bring causes of action beyond the typical one year statute of limitations.  However, the provision in this new statute that requires the actual criminal action to be commenced within the first year will cause it to be used sparingly.  Additionally, the statute provides the language in the statute should be “strictly construed”.  As a result, if someone is claiming the statute of limitations extension applies, but the statute is not technically complied with to the absolute letter of the law, the argument will be rejected.  As a result, it is likely plaintiff’s attorneys will not try to rely upon this statute to get a two year statute of limitations.  However, there may be certain circumstances where an individual does not obtain legal counsel early enough where this statute could allow them to bring a lawsuit during the second year following the incident.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Defense Litigation blog.

TAGS: 2015 Tennessee Legislation, Statute of Limitations
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com

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