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Legal Memorandum: Accrual of a Cause of Action in VI

Issue: For purposes of the Tort Claims Act, when does a cause of action accrue?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Accrual of a cause of action; Injury and cause
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 444 U.S. 111
Cited Statutes: 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b)
Date: 09/01/2007

The Virgin Islands’ general rules of discovery apply for purposes of determining when an action accrues under the Tort Claims Act.  Samuel v. Gov’t of the Virgin Islands, 44 V.I. 201, No. CIV.349/1999, 2002 V.I. LEXIS 21 (Terr. Ct. 2002), aff’d, No. CIV 2002/61 (D.V.I. Nov. 22, 2006).  Thus, a plaintiff’s action accrues when the plaintiff is aware of both the injury and its cause.  Daniel v. Gov’t of the Virgin Islands, 30 V.I. 134, No. CIV. 1992-0070, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21100 (D.V.I. 1994).  In Daniel, the plaintiff was admitted to a government hospital on April 15, 1990 with a toothpick embedded in her knee.  Dr. Morgan removed the toothpick and sutured the area.  In the weeks and months that followed, the plaintiff experienced pain, swelling, and loss of full flexion.  She consulted several doctors and underwent physical therapy.  On November 21, 1991, she consulted with a Dr. Pedersen who informed her that she had a permanent degenerative knee injury that could have been totally avoided if Dr. Morgan had prescribed the proper antibiotics upon removing the toothpick.  Id. at 135.

On January 13, 1992, Plaintiff Daniel mailed a notice of intent to file a tort claim.  On January 14, 1992, she filed a complaint against the Government of the Virgin Islands and Dr. Morgan.  When the Territorial Court denied her claims, Plaintiff Daniel appealed to the District Court, and prevailed. 

The court centered its decision on when a claim “accrues.”  It held that Daniel’s […]

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