Clarification on the Statute of Limitations for Conditions of Confinement Cases

By on July 17, 2014

The Supreme Court of Virginia has recently addressed and clarified the application of Va. Code § 8.01-243.2, which provides:

No person confined in a state or local correctional facility shall bring or have brought on his behalf any personal action relating to the conditions of his confinement until all available administrative remedies are exhausted. Such action shall be brought by or on behalf of such person within one year after the cause of action accrues or within six months after all administrative remedies are exhausted, whichever occurs later.

In Sunday Lucas v. C.T. Woody, Jr., et al, 2014 Va. LEXIS 52, 756 S.E.2d 447 (2014), the issue before the Court was whether the statute of limitations in Va. Code § 8.01-243.2 applies when the plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the time she files her action relating to the conditions of her confinement. The plaintiff contended that the term “such person” in the second line of the statute refers to a person who is confined in a state or local correctional facility. The defendants asserted that the term “such person” refers to a person who brings or has brought on his behalf a personal action relating to the conditions of his or her confinement. The Court found that both interpretations of “such person” were supported by the language of the statute. However, in concluding that the statute was applicable to the plaintiff (a former inmate), the Court emphasized that the purpose of a statute of limitations is to provide parties and potential parties certainty with regard to when a cause of action is extinguished and noted that the plaintiff’s interpretation did just the opposite. In fact, the plaintiff’s interpretation of the statute would lead to inconsistent and in some cases, shifting statutes of limitation.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court also read Code § 8.01-243.2 in conjunction with Code § 8.01-230 that provides that a “right of action shall be deemed to accrue and the prescribed limitation period shall begin to run from the date the injury is sustained.” The Court concluded that when read in conjunction, these two statutes mandate the following result: a cause of action for personal injury related to conditions of confinement in a state or local correctional facility accrues on, and the statute of limitation period beings to run from, the date the injury is sustained.

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