§31.16 Statute of Limitations

The Case: Sanders v. Traver , 109 S.W.3d 282 (Tenn. 2003).

The Basic Facts: Plaintiff, the daughter of a deceased medical patient, brought a wrongful death action against Defendant hospital, a governmental entity. The one-year anniversary of Plaintiff's mother's death occurred on a Sunday, and the next day, Monday, was Memorial Day. Plaintiff filed her complaint on Tuesday.

The Bottom Line:

  • "The issue before us is, when the statute of limitations runs on a Sunday and the following Monday is a legal holiday, is the action timely under the GTLA when the complaint is filed on Tuesday?" 109 S.W.3d at 284.
  • "The doctrine of sovereign immunity provides that governmental entities may be sued only upon the terms to which they consent. See Cruse v. City of Columbia, 922 S.W.2d 492, 495 (Tenn. 1996). The GTLA, the act under which the government allows itself to be sued for tort, provides a twelve-month period in which potential plaintiffs may file claims against the government, and, under its own terms, 'any claim for damages must be brought in strict compliance with the terms of this chapter.' Tenn. Code Ann. § 29‑20‑201(c). Blount Memorial argues that any extension of time past the twelve month deadline improperly extends the GTLA's statute of limitations, effectively allowing the governmental entity to be sued in a manner to which it did not consent. The plaintiff responds that the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure govern GTLA suits and essentially asserts that Rule 6.01 does not extend the time but merely defines how the twelve-month statutory period is to be computed. Thus, according to the plaintiff, Rule 6.01 allows a claim under the GTLA to be filed on the first day that the court is open following the one-year anniversary of the cause of action arising - in this case, the death of Cathi Williams." Id.
  • "We agree with the plaintiff that, just as Section 1-3-102 appears in the 'Construction of Statutes' Chapter and defines time periods, Rule 6.01 also serves to define, not extend, the period provided by statutes of limitations. Rule 6.01 is not analogous to a 'savings statute.'" Id. at 285.
  • "For the reasons stated herein, this Court finds that a complaint is timely filed under the GTLA's twelve month statute of limitations if it is filed pursuant to the computation of time set forth in Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 6.01. Since the one year anniversary of the accrual of the cause of action occurred on a Sunday, and the following Monday was a legal holiday, the complaint was timely when filed on the following Tuesday." Id. at 286.

Recent Cases: 

Moreno v. City of Clarksville, No. M2013-01465-SC-R11-CV, 2015 WL 5526858 (Tenn. Sept. 18, 2015) (tolling provision in Claims Commission Act does not apply to toll claim against a municipality filed under GTLA).

Shaw v. Cleveland Utilities Water Division , No. E2009-00627-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 4250157 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 30, 2009) (upholding dismissal based on applicable statute of limitations); Bertrand v. The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, No. W2008-00025-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 4334921 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 23, 2008) (savings statute at Tenn. Code. Ann. § 28-1-105 does not apply to claims filed against governmental entities under Governmental Tort Liability Act).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

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