The statute of limitations (SOL) is a deadline within which a lawsuit must be filed. As the acronym suggest, if you miss the SOL on your case, your lawsuit will be barred completely with very rare exception.
Statute of Limitations Varies Depending Type of Case and Type of Defendant
The SOL differs on various kinds of cases. For instance, the SOL for personal injury and wrongful claims in New Mexico is generally three years. However, the three year SOL applies only when suing private individuals or entities. It does not apply when suing governmental entities. The SOL is only two years for personal injury or wrongful death claims against a governmental entity, whether state, county or local.
This causes a little confusion when trying to figure out the SOL for § 1983 civil rights claims filed against New Mexico governmental entities.
§ 1983 Civil Rights Claims Follow Local Rules on Statutes of Limitations
For § 1983 lawsuits, the courts will apply the statute of limitations applicable to similar actions in the subject locale. In other words, for personal injury and wrongful death claims in New Mexico, the SOL will follow the local New Mexico rules. Thus, the statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death will apply as these are the most similar in nature to § 1983 claims.
The confusion arises because § 1983 civil rights claims are almost invariably filed against governmental entities, such as prisons which is where Collins & Collins, P.C. focuses much of its work. So the question arises as to which New Mexico statute of limitations on personal injury and wrongful death claims should apply in case of § 1983 civil rights claims, the general personal injury SOL or the SOL for suits against the government?
Fortunately, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals which governs New Mexico federal district court has ruled alleviating the confusion.
Three Year Statute of Limitations on § 1983 Civil Rights Claims
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that indeed the best fit for New Mexico based § 1983 claims is personal injury. 105 S.Ct. 1938. The Supreme Court has also ruled that if there are multiple statutes of limitations for personal injury cases, the courts should follow the general statute of limitations for personal injury claims. 109 S.Ct. 573.
Drawing upon the Supreme Court cases, the 10th Circuit has ruled flatly that the statute of limitations for § 1983 claims is three years. 756 F.3d 1208, 737 F. App’x 882. Thus, the confusion should be alleviated. The SOL for § 1983 civil rights cases filed in New Mexico federal district court is 3 years.
Seek Legal Guidance for Your § 1983 Claims
Figuring out the statute of limitations seems quite simple. Three years seems like a long time. Neither is necessarily true. Calculating the SOL is very fact dependent. The SOL starts to run on the date of the civil rights violation. Determining the date of the violation can be a challenge in itself. And although three years seems like a long time, it isn’t. § 1983 claims are very complex and very challenging. There is an enormous amount of work and investigation that needs to be done prior to filing in federal court. This takes a considerable amount of time. Most law firms, including Collins & Collins, P.C., will not take cases that are close to the SOL.
If you believe you have a § 1983 involving medical negligence, Collins & Collins, P.C. would be glad to review the facts of your case with you. We can be reached at 505.242.5958 or online using the contact form on this page.