January 11, 2021

In its decision dated December 23, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court held: “This appeal asks whether a plaintiff may take advantage of Ohio’s saving statute to refile a medical claim after the applicable one-year statute of limitations has expired if the four-year statute of repose for medical claims has also expired. We apply the plain and unambiguous language of the statute of repose and answer that question in the negative.”

Statute Of Limitations

A statute of limitations establishes a time limit for suing in a civil case, based on the date when the claim accrued (as when the injury occurred or was discovered). A statute of limitations operates on the remedy, not on the existence of the cause of action itself. Statutes of limitations emphasize plaintiffs’ duty to diligently prosecute known claims.

Statute of Repose

A statute of repose, on the other hand, bars any suit that is brought after a specified time since the defendant acted even if this period ends before the plaintiff has suffered a resulting injury. A statute of repose bars the claim—the right of action—itself. Statutes of repose emphasize defendants’ entitlement to be free from liability after a legislatively determined time.

In light of the differences between statutes of limitations and statutes of repose, statutory schemes commonly pair a shorter statute of limitations with a longer statute of repose. When the discovery rule (the rule that the statute of limitations runs from the discovery of injury) governs the running of a statute of limitations, the discovery rule gives leeway to a plaintiff who has not yet learned of a violation, while the rule of repose protects the defendant from an interminable threat of liability.

Saving Statutes

In contrast to statutes of limitations and statutes of repose, both of which limit the time in which a plaintiff may file an action, saving statutes extend that time. Saving statutes are remedial and are intended to provide a litigant an adjudication on the merits. Generally, a saving statute will provide that where an action timely begun fails in some manner described in the statute, other than on the merits, another action may be brought within a stated period from such failure.

Ohio Laws

R.C. 2305.113 sets out both a one-year statute of limitations, R.C. 2305.113(A), and a four-year statute of repose, R.C. 2305.113(C), that apply to Ohio medical malpractice claims. Ohio’s saving statute, R.C. 2305.19(A), provides: “In any action that is commenced or attempted to be commenced, * * * if the plaintiff fails otherwise than upon the merits, the plaintiff * * * may commence a new action within one year after the date of * * * the plaintiff’s failure otherwise than upon the merits or within the period of the original applicable statute of limitations, whichever occurs later.”

R.C. 2305.19(A) neither operates as a statute of limitations nor operates to toll the statute of limitations. Rather, it provides a plaintiff with a limited period of time in which to refile a dismissed claim by commencing a new action that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.

The Ohio Supreme Court held in the present case: “R.C. 2305.113(C) is a true statute of repose that, except as expressly stated in R.C. 2305.113(C) and (D), clearly and unambiguously precludes the commencement of a medical claim more than four years after the occurrence of the alleged act or omission that forms the basis of the claim. Expiration of the statute of repose precludes the commencement, pursuant to the saving statute, of a claim that has previously failed otherwise than on the merits in a prior action. Had the General Assembly intended the saving statute to provide an extension of the medical statute of repose, it would have expressly said so in R.C. 2305.113(C), as it did in the R.C. 2305.10(C), the statute of repose that governs product-liability claims … Because appellees commenced their actions in Hamilton County more than four years after the alleged conduct that formed the basis of their claims, the statute of repose barred appellees’ refiled actions. Accordingly, the trial court appropriately granted appellants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings.”

Source Wilson v. Durrani, Slip Opinion No. 2020-Ohio-6827.

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