Transportation Law

Editor:
Ted Agniel, Esquire

Two year Kansas statute of limitations applies even though medical treatment was not sought by Plaintiff until several hours after the accident, at a Missouri clinic. Plaintiff’s injury held to be ‘capable of ascertainment’ at the time of the accident, even though the Kansas police report reported no personal injury. State of Missouri ex rel. Old Dominion Freight Line v. Dally, No. 31711 (Mo. App. S.D., June 14, 2012), Francis, Jr., P.J.

Intersectional collision: plaintiff driver struck a tractor-trailer owned by defendant Old Dominion in a February 14, 2007 intersectional collision in Kansas. The Kansas police report at the scene indicated property damage, but no one was injured. A few hours later plaintiff received medical treatment for injuries at a clinic in Joplin, Missouri. He stated that the accident caused his head to move in whiplash fashion. Plaintiff filed suit against Old Dominion and its driver in Joplin County, Missouri, in October 2009, more than two years after the accident. Old Dominion moved for summary judgment on the basis of Kansas’ 2 year statute of limitations. Plaintiff responded that the cause of action accrued at the time of his initial pain and his treatment in Missouri and, therefore, Missouri’s five year statute of limitations applied. The trial court denied Old Dominion’s motion. Old Dominion petitioned for a writ of mandamus.

Held:
  The Southern District Court of Appeals made the writ permanent, held that  Kansas’ statute of limitations governed, and ordered the trial court to sustain the motion for summary judgment. It held that plaintiff’s cause of action accrued at the time of the collision in Kansas. Discussing the term “capable of ascertainment” in Missouri’s borrowing statute, § 516.190, RSMo, the court acknowledged that a cause of action does not necessarily originate when tortious conduct occurs. “The statute of limitations begins to run when the ‘evidence was such to place a reasonably prudent person on notice of a potentially actionable injury.’”  In this case, in addition to the property damage at the scene, the court stated that “most significant” was the whiplash motion plaintiff’s head sustained at the time of the accident, which “would place a reasonable person on notice that an injury . . . may have just occurred.”