Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Claim Against Estate Based on Statute of Limitations

One of the most critical aspects of any personal injury claim is the statute of limitations. Massachusetts law imposes certain timelines dictating when a plaintiff must file his or her lawsuit against the defendant. If the plaintiff fails to initiate the action within the statute of limitations period, the plaintiff will be completely barred from obtaining any compensation from the plaintiff. The statute of limitations differs depending on the type of action, and there are a number of rules and exceptions that apply to calculating when the statute of limitations on your action will run.

A recent case highlights just how important it is to consider the statute of limitations in your action and to act promptly after realizing that you may be entitled to compensation. In Abrahamson v. Estate of LeBold, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against an estate claiming that the defendant was liable based on multiple theories, including contract, tort, and according to certain consumer protection statutes. The lower court dismissed the action, finding that the plaintiff had failed to file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations period provided in Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code Section 3-803(a). Under this provision, the action should have been filed within one year of the date that the decedent passed away.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the lawsuit was timely based on Massachusetts General Laws ch. 260 § 32. In the alternative, the plaintiff alleged that he was entitled to equitable relief. The plaintiff argued in his appellate brief that he had filed suit against the decedent in Ohio during Setpemeber 2012 before the decedent passed away. Although this action was ultimately dismissed on the basis that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant, the plaintiff had filed a document with the court indicating that the defendant was likely to die and suggesting that the decedent’s estate be substituted into the action on his behalf.

The Massachusetts appellate court upheld dismissal of the complaint as untimely. The court noted that Massachusetts General Laws ch. 190, § 3-803(a) imposed a one-year statute of limitations on bringing claims against the personal representative of a decedent’s estate. The plaintiff’s complaint was not filed until one-and-a-half years after the decedent passed away. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the litigation in Ohio had any bearing on determining whether the plaintiff had met the statute of limitations in the present action. The statute allowing for certain actions to proceed even after expiration of the statute of limitations was designed to expedite settlement agreements with estates and to prevent prolonged litigation following the estate holder’s death.

If you or someone you love has been injured by another party, you may be entitled to compensation. To preserve your claim, it is critical that you speak to a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we offer a free consultation to help you determine the legal options that may be available to you. Call us now at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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