January 2016 Serious Injury Update
November 19, 2015 – The Pennsylvania Superior Court has held that the statute of limitations period cannot begin to run on a limited tort plaintiff until he or she knows or reasonably should know that he or she has sustained the requisite injury. Varner-Mort v. Kapfhammer, 2015 Pa. Super. 14 (Jan. 21, 2015).
- Varner-Mort and Kapfhammer were in an automobile crash on May 6, 2009.
- Varner-Mort sought treatment at a hospital, on May 9, 2009. Varner-Mort was diagnosed with a back sprain with paresthesia of a lower extremity.
- June 8, 2010, Dr. Bailey concludes to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Varner-Mort sustained a serious impairment of a significant bodily function.
- Varner-Mort filled a complaint against Kapfhammer on June 27, 2011.
After the accident, Varner-Mort presented a count of negligence against Kapfhammer. Her husband, Daniel Mort, presented a count of loss of consortium against Kapfhammer. Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) states that Varner Mort could recover non-economic damages only if she proved that she suffered a “serious injury” because they chose the limited tort option when they purchased their automobile insurance.
The MVFRL defines a serious injury as a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement. Kapfhammer maintained that the two year statute of limitations had passed on May 6, 2011 (2 years from the date of the crash) and barred both of Varner-Mort’s causes of action.
Varner-Mort contended that under Walls v. Scheckler, 700 A.2d 532 (Pa. Super 1997), the statute of limitations did not begin to run until Varner-Mort was aware that she suffered a serious injury. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment after it determined that Varner-Mort did reasonably know that she had suffered a serious injury as a result of the motor vehicle accident. The trial court held, “the discovery rule is not designed to allow plaintiffs to indefinitely extend filing and set aside a reasonable person’s common sense.”
The Superior Court determined that Varner-Mort did not know that she had suffered a serious injury until June 8, 2010, when Dr. Bailey concluded to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Varner-Mort had sustained a serious impairment of a significant bodily function. The court concluded that the statute of limitations period cannot begin to run on a limited tort plaintiff until he or she knows or reasonably should know that he or she has sustained the requisite injury. Although it is clear that statute of limitations will not be extended indefinitely, the discovery rule applies to limited tort cases.
By J.W. Cook