Legal Memorandum: Application of Equitable Tolling Doctrine

Issue: How is the doctrine of equitable tolling applied to limitation of actions issues?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Equitable tolling doctrine; Limitation of actions issues; Res judicata
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 478 So. 2d 413; 688 N.W.2d 473; 676 N.Y.S.2d 232; 722 N.Y.S.2d 82; 279 F. Supp. 2d 13
Cited Statutes: Rule 12(b)(1); Rule 12(b)(6)
Date: 07/01/2006

The courts give a narrow reading to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ holding in Island Insteel Systems, Inc. v. Waters, 296 F.3d 200, 215, 217, 219 (3d Cir. 2002), suggesting that the equitable tolling doctrine only applies to toll a second action when the first action was dismissed based on lack of personal jurisdiction or a procedural defect.             The equitable tolling doctrine, applicable when a plaintiff files an action in federal court and subsequently files the same action in state court, is not limited to circumstances in which the federal court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.  Rather, the doctrine also applies when the federal court dismisses for lack of subject matter jurisdictionKennedy v. State, 688 N.W.2d 473, 481 (Iowa 2004) (holding that because “the federal doctrine of equitable tolling is applicable to a case dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Eleventh Amendment,” equitable tolling applied to make the state action timely).

In Ahern v. State, 676 N.Y.S.2d 232 (App. Div. 1998), overruled on other grounds as stated in Bergmann v. State, 722 N.Y.S.2d 82 (App. Div. 2001), the appellate court held that the claimants’ state action was entitled to equitable tolling under the federal common law equitable tolling doctrine.  676 N.Y.S.2d at 235.  The court held the doctrine applicable “to toll Federal limitations periods on claims that have been dismissed in one forum for want of jurisdiction and then promptly refilled in a court of competent jurisdiction.”  Id.  Because […]

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