A proposal from trial attorneys to increase the amount of time before the statute of limitations begins to run when a police investigation is pending (SB-1026) was approved by the Judiciary committee last week and now awaits further action in the Senate.
Extending the amount of time for filing a civil claim when a police investigation is pending is bad public policy. Police reports and investigations are pieces of evidence and have no bearing on whether a potential plaintiff has a cause of action.
What’s more, lengthening the statute of limitations until a police investigation is final contradicts the reason for setting a deadline. Statutes of limitations, the finite period of time in which a person can file a lawsuit, are designed to bring fairness to the process. They balance the ability to bring a lawsuit with the ability to mount a fair defense and to protect courts from stale or fraudulent claims.
SB-1026 erases this balance. It’s impossible to know how long police investigations will take—cases can be resolved quickly, or they can linger for years. Every potential claim in which a police investigation is pending will be treated differently.
Employers rely on statutes of limitations to help them accurately gauge any potential liability and make financial and insurance coverage decisions. Enacting SB-1026 will only compromise predictability and certainty in civil law.
The legislature should reject the proposed measure and stay with the current system that balances the rights of plaintiffs, defendants and the court.
Occasionally, cases come to light that prompt calls for extending statutes of limitations. Policymakers, however, have to legislate with all interests in mind. Changing a statute of limitations based on an isolated case will negatively affect future defendants and the court—upsetting the balance that statutes of limitations created.
For more information on statutes of limitations or other business law & liability matters, contact CBIA at 860-244-1900..