DISCOVERY RULE APPLICATION IS VERY LIMITED

Date: October 2, 2007
Posted In: DLP Law

  

In Pennsylvania, there is a two (2) year statute of limitations regarding personal injury lawsuits.  This means that if an individual was injured due to the negligence or carelessness of another, if the injured person desires to pursue a claim to recover damages against the negligent party, the injured person must file suit within two (2) years of when his injuries occurred.  However, under certain limited circumstances, an injured person may not know he suffered an injury until several years after the conduct which caused the injury occurred.  An example would be if a doctor left a sponge inside the person during an operation and the patient did not develop any problems as a result of the sponge until several years after the operation.  

When an injured person is not aware that he was injured or what caused his injuries until after the expiration of the two (2) year statute of limitations period, under very limited circumstances, Pennsylvania Courts apply the Discovery Rule to extend the statute of limitations period.  The Discovery Rule extends the statute of limitations period to afford an injured person additional time to file a claim against the party responsible for causing his injuries.  The Discovery Rule requires that the injured party file his claim against the responsible party within two (2) years of (1) when he should have known he was injured,  and (2) when he should have known who was responsible for causing his injuries.    

Pennsylvania Court are very reluctant to apply the Discovery Rule.  As such, it is recognized in only very limited circumstances.   For example, in Coleman v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, a recent case from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the Court ruled the discovery rule does not apply to a products liability claim where the connection between the defendant’s medication and breast cancer had been discussed in the press while plaintiff was on the medication.  Plaintiff had been diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2000.  However, she did not file suit until June 2004 against the drug manufacturer who made the drug she claimed caused her breast cancer.  Plaintiff asserted she only learned of the connection between the drug and the cancer through a recent publication on the subject and for this reason, the statute of limitation should be tolled by the discovery rule.  The Court disagreed, stating widespread information on the connection had been published throughout the 1990s and plaintiff should have ascertained this connection well within the two-year statute of limitations.

If you were involved in an accident in which you suffered injuries, you need to be aware that any claim you wish to pursue for damages against the responsible party must generally be filed within two (2) years.  The Discovery Rule has very limited applicability and Pennsylvania Court will only extend/toll the statute of limitations period under very limited circumstances.  If you have been injured as a result of the negligent conduct of another, you should contact an attorney to discuss your rights as soon as possible after the accident.  You may contact DLP to schedule a free consultation regarding your claim at any time.

John P. Finnerty, Esquire      

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.