Court Reinforces One-Year Statute of Limitations Protection Under the Tort Immunity Act

In a recent case, the appellate court upheld the dismissal of a personal injury claim against a school district, reinforcing the one-year statute of limitations protection provided in the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/8-101(a)).

In Lee v. Naperville Community Unit School District 203, the Second District of the Illinois Appellate Court concluded that plaintiff’s personal injury claim against the school district was time-barred by the one-year statute of limitations. Plaintiff filed her complaint in circuit court on August 20, 2014. She alleged that on May 12, 2012, she was injured while playing soccer in physical education class. It was undisputed that the plaintiff’s 18th birthday was on August 21, 2012. The school district filed a motion to dismiss contending that the Tort Immunity Act’s one-year limitations period began to run on plaintiff’s 18th birthday, thus her August 20, 2014, complaint filed almost two years later was untimely. Plaintiff argued that section 13-211 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-211) afforded her two years to bring suit after reaching the age of 18. The trial court disagreed and granted the school district’s motion to dismiss.

The Tort Immunity Act protects governmental entities and their employees, including school districts, from liability arising out of the operation of government. It further provides that “no civil action may be commenced in any court against a local entity or any of its employees for any injury unless it is commenced within one year from the date that the injury was received or the cause of action accrued.”

The appellate court upheld the dismissal of plaintiff’s case, unequivocally confirming that the statute of limitations of the Tort Immunity Act provides comprehensive protection to local governmental entities, and necessarily controls over other statutes of limitations or repose. In other words, the one-year statute of limitations of the Tort Immunity Act supersedes any statute of limitations provided for in the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure that would otherwise govern plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff’s lawsuit, which was not filed until one day before her twentieth birthday, was untimely.

For school districts, this decision effectively limits the amount of time in which an individual may bring suit, even if they were under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged injury. Please contact Vanessa Clohessy with any questions about how this ruling or the Tort Immunity Act may affect current or future litigation in your district.

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