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Bananas over Conflicts of Law, Multi jurisdictional Statutes of Limitations

We have discussed, in other blog posts, the importance of filing an action before the applicable statute of limitations runs out. Today, we discuss a different twist. What if you are injured in another state, but you have a basis to file the action in Massachusetts? Whose statute of limitations applies? Well, it depends, but it’s a critical question. Statutes of limitations on state actions vary from state to state. So, in one state, there may be a 4 year statute of limitations to bring a car accident, negligence claim and in another state, you might have only 2 years. Sometimes Massachusetts Statute of Limitations won’t apply, even when you file the action in Massachusetts.

Okay, so let’s take a look at a real life example and, in the process, we’ll discuss the rule and how it applies here. Here we have the case of Lynch v. Stop and shop. It’s a massachusetts appeals case and it was decided on November 6, 2013. There are actually three defendants and I’ll discuss them along with the rest of the facts. They are as follows:

Gelald Lynch was a trucker and he drove for a company called Pray Trucking, based out of Seekonk, MA.

Stop and Shop Supermarket Company contracted with Turbana and Horizon to get the banana shipment from central america to Massachusetts. That happened by ship from central america, to Phili, where they were unloaded by Horizon, and then housed in a warehouse of Turbana, where they would be picked up by Pray (via Gerald Lynch) for deliver to MA.

All went well until Lynch’s foot was run over by a forklift while in the Turbana warehouse. Ouch. He was brought to a hospital in Phili and then was released and drove the bananas back to MA. He then filed a worker’s comp case against Pray, which was dealt with in MA. He also continued to treat his injury in MA.

Then he sued Stop & Shop, Turbana, and Horizon in MA, filed on July 18, 2012, before the expiration of the MA tort three year statute of limitations. So far so good. That is, until the three defendants filed a motiont o dismiss, arguing the Pennsylvania two year SOL should apply and that it had already past. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. Lynch appealed the decision and the appeals court affirmed. The discussion helps us better understand this doctrine.

Massachusetts uses an approach to this issue called, the “functional approach”. It’s an approach to dealing with conflict of laws, such as when two laws could arguably be applied, but they are in conflict with each other. The functional approach focuses on the practicality of deciding the issue. In the opinion, the appeals court said:

“Massachusetts 'will apply its own statute of limitations permitting the claim unless: (a) maintenance of the claim would serve no substantial interest of the forum; and (b) the claim would be barred under the statute of limitations of a state having a more significant relationship to the parties and the occurrence.' Anderson v. Lopez, 80 Mass.App.Ct. 813, 815 (2011).”

The Lynch team attempted to distinguish this case from the rule, but to no avail. The court really hitched on to the defendant’s cumulative wagon regarding the foreign corporation and “where the accident occurred” arguments. There was no mention in the opinion of Stop & Shop’s legal department being located in Massachusetts (Quincy), nor of it’s claims department, MAC Risk Management (Braintree). From this case, we can safely say that if you are injured in a jurisdiction, that’s likely the safest place to bring the action and you should probably file before the expiration of ANY of the potentially applicable statutes of limitation.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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