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COVID’s Impact on Oregon’s Statute of Limitations Period

Posted December 23, 2020 - phillipgilbertlaw.com

As many may already know, each state has “statute of limitations” laws. These laws effectively create a deadline for when someone can file suit in pursuit of a claim. There are different statute of limitations periods for different types of claims, i.e. (in Oregon) the statute of limitations period for a breach of contract claim is longer (six years) than is the statute of limitations period for a negligence (including “personal injury”) claim (two years). With limited exceptions that I will be discussing in a separate post (the “discovery rule”), this two-year long period begins on the date of the allegedly negligent act or omission (i.e. the date on which a car accident occurs). As such, as a general proposition, with reference to personal injury claims arising from accidents (car accidents, truck accidents, etc., etc.) that occur here in Oregon, the injured person must either settle their claim, or file a lawsuit, within two years of the date on which their accident occurred. If the injured person fails to do one or the other, within that two-year period, thereafter they are legally barred from pursuing their claim.

COVID-19 has dramatically impacted our legal system in Oregon, in numerous ways, i.e. most courthouses are all but closed for business (conducting a jury trial in the usual fashion would expose the jurors to a real risk of contracting/spreading the virus, etc., etc.). Oregon’s lawmakers have thus passed a law (H.B. 4212) that takes this into account and serves to extend the statute of limitations period accordingly. The law reads:

SECTION 7. (1) If the expiration of the time to commence an action or give notice of a claim falls within the time in which any declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor related to COVID-19, and any extension of the declaration, is in effect, or within 90 days after the declaration and any extension is no longer in effect, the expiration of the time to commence the action or give notice of the claim is extended to a date 90 days after the declaration and any extension is no longer in effect. (2) Subsection (1) of this section applies to: (a) Time periods for commencing an action established in ORS chapter 12; (b) The time period for commencing an action for wrongful death established in ORS 30.020; ( c) The time period for commencing an action or giving a notice of claim under ORS 30.275; and (d) Any other time limitation for the commencement of a civil cause of action or the giving of notice of a civil claim established by statute. (3) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to: (a) Time limitations for the commencement of criminal actions; (b) The initiation of an appeal to the magistrate division of the Oregon Tax Court or an appeal from the magistrate division to the regular division; ( c) The initiation of an appeal or judicial review proceeding in the Court of Appeals; or (d) The initiation of any type of case or proceeding in the Supreme Court.

Summarizing this law, presently, in Oregon, the two-year long statute of limitations period that applies to personal injury claims, has been, and remains extended indefinitely, until such time as the state governor ends the current state of emergency (and extensions of the same) that has been declared due to COVID-19. The extension of the statute of limitations period expires ninety days after the state of emergency ends.

Please contact our office or another experienced personal injury firm if you have questions about your claim and the statute of limitations period that applies to it.