Virginia Court of Appeals confirms that the time to file claims was extended by the Supreme Court of Virginia’s Emergency COVID-19 Orders
On November 29, 2022, the Court of Appeals of Virginia (the “Court of Appeals”) issued its opinion in George English v. Thomas William Quinn, which held that the Supreme Court of Virginia’s (the “Supreme Court’s”) emergency orders entered between March 16, 2020 and July 8, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, tolled and extended all statutes of limitations for all claims, and not just those whose time for filing expired prior to August 2020.
The case arises out of a dispute pending before the Circuit Court of the City of Roanoke, Virginia (the “Circuit Court”). There, the Circuit Court dismissed a personal injury claim earlier this year that was originally filed in November 2020 related to an automobile accident that occurred on July 28, 2018. Ordinarily, the time for filing this personal injury claim would have expired two years later on July 28, 2020. However, on March 16, 2020 the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an order declaring a judicial emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first judicial order “tolled and extended” “all deadlines” in all Virginia courts for twenty-one days. As COVID-19 raged one, the Supreme Court then entered several more similar orders. The last of the seven emergency orders limited the tolling period to the 126 days between March 16, 2020 and July 19, 2020.
In the case before the Circuit Court, the Defendant, Mr. Quinn, argued that the Supreme Court’s emergency orders only paused the statute of limitations period for claims, which expired during the 126-day time-frame. The Plaintiff, Mr. George, argued that the effect of the Court’s emergency orders was to pause all statute of limitations for all actions pending before the courts of Virginia, and not just expiring during the 126-day period. The Circuit Court agreed with the Defendant and dismissed the Plaintiff’s case. The Plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals.
The Virginia Court of Appeals reviewed and rejected the Circuit Court’s ruling and agreed with the Plaintiff, that the effect of the Supreme Court’s emergency orders was a pause on all statute of limitations during the 126-day window. The Court of Appeals determined that the Circuit Court erroneously concluded that the emergency orders tolled only the statutes of limitations and deadlines “that would expire during the (126 day) tolling period.” Therefore, the Plaintiff’s claim was not time-barred. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Circuit Court and sent the case back to the Circuit Court for trial.
This Court of Appeals decision is important, because, if you have a cause of action, which was pending during the 126-day suspension period, you may have more time than you anticipated to bring your claim. If you have any questions on how this decision may apply to a case which you are involved, please contact our office.