Morgan’s Tip of the Week- 1st DCA clarifies the SOL


You may recall a Tip that I did last year about a potential drastic change to how the Fla 1st DCA was applying the Statute of Limitations in the Annalie Ortiz v. Winn-Dixie, Inc (1D21-0885) case

The DCA’s opinion in Ortiz was put on hold pending Motions for Rehearing, and it has just sat and never been finalized, so it is not “the law”.   (Here  was that prior tip:

Last week, the 1st DCA issued another SOL decision in American Airlines Grp v. Lopez (1D2023-0379).

The good news is that the DCA interpreted and applied the SOL in the traditional manor that we have all operated under for years:  the later of a 2-year running clock from the date of the accident or 1-year running clock from the last provision of compensation or medical treatment. 

The Lopez case also clarifies that payment of an attorney’s fee is does not toll the one-year clock, only payment of compensation to the claimant or furnishing medical treatment.   The court was very clear the only two things that TOLL the Statute of Limitations are payment of indemnity or providing authorized medical care.

A prior DCA case from 2012, Longley v. Miami Dade County School Bd, had opened the door to a potential third way the SOL could be…”tolled”.    If a claimant attorney voluntarily dismisses a Petition for Benefits, and reserves on whether or not they are entitled to attorney fees, the Statute of Limitations does not run until that reservation is resolved by either dismissal or resolution of the fee.  Collectively, the legal community had been referring to that fee reservation as “tolling” the SOL, but in the Lopez case, the 1st DCA disagreed, to an extent.  It appears the Lopez court considers a fee reservation to mean that the PFB is not actually resolved and thus still pending, which prevents the SOL from running.  My take is they just didn’t like the use of the word “tolling” the SOL for a fee reservation, but it does have essentially the same effect.

I do not read into the Lopez case that it is overturning the Longley fee-reservation decision, even though that would be a positive.

But the overall good news is that it is business as usual in applying the SOL.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

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Morgan Indek | Managing Partner