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COVID tolling applies to all statutes of limitations

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 8, 2022

COVID tolling applies to all statutes of limitations

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 8, 2022

Where the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim expired during one of the judicial emergency orders related to COVID-19, the circuit court incorrectly dismissed the case. The emergency orders tolled and extended all statutes of limitations.

Statement of the case

“George English appeals the circuit court’s order dismissing his personal injury claim against Thomas William Quinn as barred by the statute of limitations.

“As a matter of first impression, this Court must decide whether the Supreme Court’s emergency orders entered between March 16, 2020, and July 8, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, tolled all statutes of limitations or only those that would have expired during the tolling period.

“We hold that because the emergency orders tolled and extended all statutes of limitations, English’s suit was not time-barred; thus, we reverse the circuit court’s judgment.”

Judicial orders interpreted

“Well-established principles of interpretation guide our analysis. When the Supreme Court has defined a specific word in an order, ‘this Court need not look outside the plain language of the definition in that [order] to determine’ the word’s meaning. …

“Here, the orders expressly defined the word ‘toll’ as ‘[t]o suspend or stop temporarily.’ … [T]he plain language of the judicial emergency orders ‘stopp[ed] the limitations clock’ for all statutes of limitations between March 16, 2020, and July 19, 2020. …

“By their clear and express terms, the orders’ tolling provisions were not limited to deadlines that otherwise would have expired during that period. Indeed, the orders instructed that the time remaining when the tolling period commenced was to be added after the judicial emergency ended. …

“At the risk of stating the obvious, when the Supreme Court said that the orders’ tolling provisions applied to ‘all “statutes of limitations,”’ it meant ‘all “statutes of limitations.”’”


“In this case, English’s cause of action for personal injury accrued on the date of the collision, July 28, 2018. … Ordinarily, the applicable two-year statute of limitations would have expired on July 28, 2020. … But the judicial emergency orders stopped the clock for the two-year limitations period on March 16, 2020, when English had 135 days remaining to file his claim. …

“When the clock restarted on July 20, 2020, the 135 days began to count down again and would not have expired until December 1, 2020. … Accordingly, English timely filed his complaint on November 30, 2020, and the circuit court erred by holding that it was time-barred.”

Reversed and remanded.

English v. Quinn, Record No. 0420-22-3, Nov. 29, 2022. CAV (Petty). From the Circuit Court of the City of Roanoke (Carson). Joanna M. Meyer (John E. Lichtenstein; Gregory L. Lyons; Lichtenstein Law Group PLC, on briefs), for appellant. Wm. Tyler Shands (Carter T. Keeney; Carter & Shands, P.C., on brief), for appellee. Amicus Curiae: Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (E. Kyle McNew; Les Bowers; MichieHamlett PLLC, on brief), for appellant. Amicus Curiae: The Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys (Nathan H. Schnetzler; Joseph R. Pope; Goodman Allen Donnelly, PLLC, on brief), for appellee. VLW 022-7-541, 10 pp.

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