Filing Deadlines in West Virginia Personal Injury Cases – Hammonds v. Riverview Cemetery Association

There are a number of procedural rules that a person considering filing a lawsuit in West Virginia should keep in mind when mulling his or her options. That includes the applicable statute of limitations, which in personal injury cases generally requires an injured person to file suit within two years of an accident. The State Supreme Court recently explained that the deadline is relatively hard, and those who don’t meet it are likely to have their cases dismissed.

calendar-1568148Ms. Hammonds was injured in an accident in July 2010 when she fell into an uncovered man-made hole at Riverview Cemetery in Williamstown. Hammonds, who was there for her grandfather’s funeral service, suffered a broken left ankle as a result of the fall. She later sued companies she believed to be the cemetery’s owners for negligence in July 2012. That lawsuit was dismissed after it was later determined that the parties being sued owned a different Riverview Cemetery, not the one at which the accident occurred. Hammonds filed a second lawsuit against Riverview Cemetery Association in December 2012.

The RCA argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Hammonds filed it after the two-year statute of limitations expired. Hammonds maintained that the December suit related back to the initial lawsuit against the other cemetery owner and was therefore timely. Hammonds said the court should treat the December action as an amended version of the original lawsuit.

A circuit court disagreed. It said there was no evidence to show that the complaint related back to the first lawsuit in a manner that would allow the court to toll the statute of limitations. Instead, the court said the complaints appeared to be related to two separate cases. Since the statute of limitations expired in July 2012, the court said the December filing was untimely and must be dismissed.

The state Supreme Court affirmed the decision on appeal. The Court explained that the West Virginia Code includes a so-called “savings statute” that extends limitations period by one year in the event that a suit is dismissed for reasons not related to the actual merits of the case. In this situation, however, the Court found that Hammonds waived her right to rely on the savings statute because she didn’t mention it during the lower court proceedings. “As we have repeatedly stated, our general rule in this regard is that, when nonjurisdictional questions have not been decided at the trial court level and are then first raised before this Court, they will not be considered on appeal,” the Court noted.

As a result, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit.

The statute of limitations is just one of a number of issues that can come up in a personal injury case. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, the West Virginia personal injury lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm can help. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, we represent clients in a wide range of injury, criminal defense, and bankruptcy matters. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Related blog posts:

Negligence and Foreseeability in West Virginia Car Accident Cases – Price v. LaMaster

Comparative Negligence in West Virginia Car Accident Cases – Comer v. Bloch

Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death and Negligence Cases – Shulin v. Werner Enterprises