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Statute of Limitations are Equitable Tolling

Statute of Limitations are Equitable Tolling

In a brand new decision, and for the first time, the Nevada Supreme Court answers the question of under what circumstances someone can file a lawsuit after the statute of limitation has passed.  

Fausto v. Sanchez-Flores

137 Nev. Adv. Op. 11 (2021)

The Nevada Supreme Court just issued a decision regarding filing personal injury claims in Nevada. Nevada has a 2-year statute of limitations on wrongful death and personal injury claims. NRS 11.090(4)(e). In the Fausto v. Sanchez-Flores case, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant sexually assaulted her on December 30, 2016. She filed a civil complaint for a sexual assault two and a half years after the alleged sexual assault occurred on December 30, 2016.

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Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that NRS 11.090 prevented the claim because it was over two years since the alleged incident. The Plaintiff responded that the statute of limitations should be tolled in her case because she was allegedly not notified until February 2, 2019, the police lab processed the rape kit and unwashed clothing from the night of the incident, revealing the Defendant’s DNA.

The Court explained that the 2-year period in NRS 11.090 starts running when the wrong occurs and the party is injured. The Court explained that equitable tolling is a remedy that suspends a statute of limitations, allowing a case filed too late to proceed. The Court found equitable tolling should apply to the statute of limitations in NRS 11.090. In determining whether to toll a statute and allow an untimely case to proceed, a plaintiff must demonstrate diligence in pursuing his claims and that some extraordinary circumstance prevented the Plaintiff from bringing a timely action. Consider the following factors:

  • The diligence of the claimant;
  • The claimant’s knowledge of the relevant facts; and 
  • Any other equitable considerations appropriate to the particular case.

Examples of Equitable Tolling

Equitable tolling is a legal principle that allows for the extension of time limits in certain circumstances to ensure fairness and justice. Here are some examples of equitable tolling in various legal contexts:

  • Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases: Suppose a person suffers a serious injury due to someone else’s negligence. Still, the injured party is incapacitated or unable to pursue legal action within the standard statute of limitations period. Equitable tolling may be applied to extend the time limit until the injured party can file a lawsuit.
  • Employment Discrimination Claims: An employee who experiences workplace discrimination may fear retaliation and delay filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the delay is justified by circumstances such as ongoing harassment or fear for personal safety, equitable tolling might be considered to extend the time for filing a complaint.
  • Habeas Corpus Petitions: In criminal law, a person convicted of a crime may file a habeas corpus petition to challenge their imprisonment. If new evidence comes to light after the expiration of the typical filing period, equitable tolling could be applied to allow the petitioner to present the evidence and seek relief.
  • Social Security Disability Claims: Individuals seeking Social Security Disability benefits may face challenges obtaining medical documentation or delays due to health issues. Equitable tolling can be applied in cases where the claimant experiences difficulties meeting deadlines due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • Fraudulent Concealment in Contractual Disputes: In contract law, if one party fraudulently conceals information that could affect the other party’s ability to enforce contractual rights, equitable tolling might be considered. It allows the injured party additional time to bring legal action after discovering the fraudulent conduct.
  • Class Action Lawsuits: In class action cases, equitable tolling may be applied if the lead plaintiff or class representative had been pursuing other legal remedies in good faith, leading to a delay in initiating the class action.

These examples illustrate the diverse applications of equitable tolling across different legal scenarios, emphasizing its role in promoting fairness and preventing unjust outcomes in the face of exceptional circumstances.

Factors Influencing Equitable Tolling

Equitable tolling in Nevada, as in many other jurisdictions, refers to the legal doctrine that allows for the suspension or extension of a statute of limitations in certain circumstances to ensure fairness and justice. 

Various factors can influence the application of equitable tolling in Nevada. Some key factors include:

  • Fraud or Misrepresentation: Equitable tolling may be considered if the plaintiff can demonstrate that the defendant engaged in fraudulent conduct or misrepresentations that prevented them from timely filing their claim. In such cases, the courts may find enforcing the original statute of limitations unjust.
  • Duress or Coercion: Equitable tolling may be applied if a plaintiff can establish that they were under duress or subject to coercion that hindered their ability to file a lawsuit within the prescribed timeframe. It recognizes situations where external factors beyond the plaintiff’s control impede the pursuit of legal remedies.
  • Mental Incapacity: Equitable tolling may be granted if the plaintiff suffered from mental incapacity during the statutory period, rendering them unable to comprehend their legal rights or take timely legal action. Courts will consider medical evidence supporting claims of mental incapacity.
  • Extraordinary Circumstances: Courts may exercise discretion to toll the statute of limitations when faced with circumstances beyond the plaintiff’s control. Natural disasters, political unrest, or other unforeseen events are grounds for equitable tolling.
  • Inability to Access the Legal System: Equitable tolling may be appropriate if the plaintiff can demonstrate that circumstances, such as a lack of access to legal resources or barriers to justice, prevented them from filing a timely claim.

It’s essential to note that equitable tolling is highly fact-specific, and each case is evaluated on its own merits. Courts will weigh these factors and others to determine whether tolling is warranted in the interest of fairness and justice. Legal advice from a qualified attorney should be sought to understand the specific implications of equitable tolling in individual cases.

If you have questions about your particular matter, call us now for assistance.

For more information on how can help you with Statute of Limitations are Equitable Tolling, please contact us at (702) 940-1234, or visit us here:

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