North Carolina Supreme Court Concludes Injured Party’s Status as a Minor Does not Toll the Statute of Limitations When a Guardian Ad Litem is Appointed

In order to protect younger individuals, there are many unique and special rules that apply to legal claims involving minors. If you aren’t careful, it is easy to make a mistake or to miss a procedural rule, which could have a devastating outcome for the minor’s claim. As North Carolina personal injury lawyers with experience handling claims on behalf of minors, we have the experience it takes to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.

The North Carolina Supreme Court recently considered whether the appointment of a guardian ad litem for a minor removes a disability and starts the statute of limitations for that minor’s claim. A guardian ad litem is an adult party assigned to represent the best interests of a child and to make legal decisions on behalf of that child. In the case at hand, a baby suffered a brain injury during delivery under the guidance of a nurse midwife who managed the delivery. Three years later, a trial court appointed a guardian ad litem for the child for the purpose of bringing a civil claim against the nurse. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit on that same day against the medical professionals involved in the delivery. For unknown reasons, the guardian ad litem eventually dismissed the claim.

Six years later, the trial court appointed the same guardian to represent the child in a similar medical action, which the guardian filed the same day. This time, the complaint named additional defendants. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that the statute of limitations for the claim had expired, relying on North Carolina’s three-year limit for bringing a medical malpractice claim.

The plaintiff appealed, relying on certain statutes to argue that the statute of limitations was tolled until the plaintiff reached the age of 19. The Court of Appeal agreed, finding that even though the child had a guardian appointed, the child’s status as a minor constituted a disability that tolled the statute of limitations. The defendant appealed.

On review before the Supreme Court, the justices concluded that the child’s status as a minor did not toll the statute of limitations when a guardian was appointed for the specific purpose of bringing a legal action on the child’s behalf. The court also noted that the guardian’s decision to dismiss the first lawsuit did not place the child back into disability status. Since the child could not rely on any tolling provision, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court appropriately dismissed the second complaint as time-barred.

If you or your child was injured as a result of another person’s negligence, you should speak to a seasoned Charlotte personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights. There are many different statutes of limitations that could apply to your claim, and it is critical to know how much time you have to investigate your claim. Our dedicated team of legal professionals provides a free consultation to help you learn more about your options and how we might be able to assist you. Call us now at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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