Beware of Hidden Language in Contracts Limiting Right to Sue

Beware of Hidden Language in Contracts Limiting Right to Sue
May 8, 2018

If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you have the right to file a claim as long as the lawsuit is initiated within certain prescribed periods of time, called statutes of limitation. In Georgia, most personal injury claims have a two-year statute of limitation. However, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently held that these time periods may be either extended or reduced by contract.

The case, Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC, decided on May 1, 2018, involved a trip and fall incident at an apartment complex. The plaintiff was a tenant at the complex, and was injured when she fell in a common area of the complex when her foot got caught and slid on a crumbling portion of the curb that was in a state of disrepair. The lawsuit alleged that the apartment complex was negligent in failing to repair the curb, which it knew was dangerous. The lawsuit was filed within two years of the incident, but the court threw it out because the lease contained a one-year limitation period for legal actions and the plaintiff filed her lawsuit more than a year after her fall.

What does this mean for you?

Although the Langley case dealt with a lease agreement, the Court’s opinion did not limit its ruling to that type of contract. There are numerous other contractual arrangements where more restrictive limitation periods are placed. Often the language limiting the time for filing a lawsuit is contained in the fine print of a contract that is not up for negotiation – you either sign it as is, or you don’t get the apartment, or whatever the contract concerns.

It is not clear to what extent this opinion will be used to limit personal injury claims in other contexts, but it does provide a warning bell to read the provisions of any contract carefully. If you are injured, your lease agreement or similar contract may affect your right of recovery. Therefore, now more than ever, it is important to consider how long you have after an injury to file a lawsuit.