Partial payment puts off statute start, SC says

Legal News Line Dec. 11, 2006, 6:38am

SALEM, Ore. -- Partially paying an injured plaintiff delays the onset of the statute of limitations for the plaintiff to file a lawsuit, the Oregon Supreme Court recently ruled. The court's decision in Hamilton vs. Paynter, reversed both a circuit court judgment and a Court of Appeals decision. The case hinged on an August 2001 auto accident where a woman rear-ended a forklift truck owned by Carvalho Fisheries. The business gave the woman $1,000 in partial payment for her injuries in November 2001 and the woman filed suit in November 2003. The defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing the woman waited two years and three months after the accident to file. The woman countered that the payment tolled (delayed the start of) the statute of limitation and so her suit was valid, although defendants argued such payments must be made by an insurer. The trial court and Court of Appeal ruled for the defendant. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that a payment does toll the statute even if the advancing company is not an insurer. "Defendants qualify as person[s] who [made] an advance payment," the court wrote and added "under the allegations of the complaint, they did not give timely written notice of the statute of limitations."

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