JUDGE EXTENDS NJ STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR MAN WHO FELL ASLEEP FOR 70 YEARS IN HIS LAWYER’S OFFICE.
The NJ statute of limitations for personal injury cases is normally two years. That means that an injured victim normally has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. After that, the victim cannot recover compensation.
But a recent case, just decided today, April 1, 2015, shows that there are exceptions. The facts of the case were as follows:
On April 1, 1943, a man we’ll call Rip appeared at the law office of Klu & Less, on Church Street in Paterson. Rip had just been injured while crossing Market Street, two blocks away. He had been hit by a 1938 DeSoto. The driver, Mr. Blind, was apparently fiddling with his World War II food rations coupons at the time of the accident.
The two law partners of Klu & Less were then serving in the Navy. They were officers on a destroyer in the Pacific. Apparently, the attorneys had a good secretary. The office was able to function as if the lawyers were still there.
Sylvia the secretary put Rip in a conference room. She informed him that a lawyer would see him soon. Of course, it would be several years before the partners triumphantly returned from battle.
In the meantime, Rip fell asleep. He snored like a bullhorn. The secretary didn’t have the heart to wake him. In order to muffle the sound of Rip’s snoring, she built a “wall” of bankers’ boxes in front of him. The boxes were filled with closed case files. They had been lying around the office in various places. The “wall” Sylvia built extended from the floor to the ceiling.
Since the firm had a lot of other conference rooms, by-and-by Sylvia figured that it would be a good idea to use the conference room that Rip was sleeping in to store all the firm’ s closed case files.
Years passed. The practice was taken over by the sons of Mr. Klu and Mr. Less. Eventually, the grandsons succeeded their fathers.
In 2013, Mr. Klu and Mr. Less versions 3.0 decided that it was finally time for the firm to throw away its typewriters and go digital. They purchased computers. They bought scanners. They decided to scan all the contents of all the old file boxes in the office. After scanning, they would throw the boxes away.
On April 1, 2013, Klu and Less began to scan the contents of the boxes in front of Rip. They were astonished to hear his snoring. They tore down the wall.
“Wake up!” screamed Mr. Klu.
“Who are you!” yelled Mr. Less.
“I can’t seem to remember,” said Rip. “But I am mighty thirsty.”
After the lawyers gave him a glass of water, Rip’s memory returned. He described his case.
“Sounds like a good one,” said Klu.
“But what about the statute of limitations?” asked Less.
“Why, the deadline can be extended if the victim didn’t have reasonable grounds to be aware that he had a case. This guy has been sleeping for 70 years. What’s more reasonable grounds than that?”
“Worth a try.”
So the law partners filed suit. And wouldn’t you know it, just today, April 1, 2015, a decision was issued in the Superior Court, at the Passaic County Courthouse. Judge Ileev Erly ruled in favor of Rip. The judge extended the NJ statute of limitations, and allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
However, there was one condition. Any verdict in favor of Rip will only have to be paid in 1943 dollars. Unfortunately for Rip, a dollar in 1943 was only worth about 10% of what it is now. Oh well, you win some, and you lose some.
Judge Erly also decreed that the ruling would never be published in any official law book.
The moral of the story is that the next time you go to an attorney’s office and are made to wait, you should advise the secretary that you don’t want boxes put anywhere near you.