The Washington Supreme Court recently ruled that the statue of limitations in a wrongful death case was not “tolled” (that is, continued to run) even though the person filing suit was a minor at the time of the incident and, thus, unable to file suit until he or she turned 18.
Kaela Atchison, who was 15 years old at the time of her father’s death, appealed a decision by the Clark County Superior Court to dismiss her case on the ground that she needed to file her suit before June 2003. Atchison claimed that because of her age the start of the statute of limitations should be delayed.
However, on Thursday the Supreme Court upheld the Clark County ruling and dismissed Atchison’s 2006 suit for the alleged wrongful death of her father.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Washington statute, which solely governs such cases, granted only a personal representative the right to sue for wrongful death and minors cannot perform this role.
Therefore “Kaela could not have been a person entitled to bring the wrongful death action when the action accrued,” wrote Justice Bobbe J. Bridge in the unanimous opinion. “Thus, the statute of limitations did not toll during her minority.”
Bridge notes that the ruling “is unfortunate for some minors who are beneficiaries of wrongful death actions” but suggests several possible legislative remedies. These include giving minor beneficiaries right of action or explicitly allowing tolling for minority decedents.
Read more: Rob Luke, Legal Newsline