August 24, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Limitations Period Not Tolled During Case That Did Not Consider Damages Claims

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Jackson v. American Family Mutual Ins. Co. on May 12, 2011.

Breach of Contract—Personal Injury Protection—Statute of Limitations—Tolling—Claim Preclusion—Class Action—Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict.

Plaintiff Rebecca Jackson appealed the trial court’s judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) in favor of defendant American Family Mutual Insurance Company (American Family) on her breach of contract claim. The judgment was affirmed.

In March 2002, Jackson was seriously injured in a car accident. At the time, she was insured under an American Family automobile policy that provided basic personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. The policy did not, however, provide (as was then required by law) an option to purchase extended PIP coverage. Jackson filed suit against the claims analyst employed by American Family and added American Family itself as a party. After a trial, a jury returned verdicts awarding Jackson $61,300 on her breach of contract claim and $300,000 on some of her tort claims. American Family moved for a JNOV on the ground that Jackson’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court ultimately granted the motion on only Jackson’s breach of contract claim. Jackson appealed only the JNOV entered on her contract claim.

Jackson contended that American Family was barred, under the doctrine of claim preclusion, from relitigating a statute of limitations issue that was or could have been resolved in Hicks v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co. (Boulder County Dist. Ct. No. 04CV879), whichwas filed in June 2004 and sought reformation of insurance policies on behalf of a class that included Jackson. She also contended that the trial court erred in its application of the statute of limitations. Because the Hicks court excluded from its judgment any consideration of damages claims (or defenses thereto), Jackson’s damages claim was not a matter that either was or could have been adjudicated in Hicks. Consequently, the judgment rendered in Hicks could not, under the doctrine of claim preclusion, bar either Jackson’s action or American Family’s assertion of a statute of limitations defense thereto.

Jackson’s claim accrued on March 28, 2002, when Jackson was informed by American Family of the limits of her PIP benefits, and the statute of limitations period expired no later than three years after that date. Jackson did not file her lawsuit until April 2008. Because Jackson also was a putative member of the class in French v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co. (El Paso County Dist. Ct. No. 00CV3162) regarding this same issue, and her claim accrued prior to French, she was entitled to have her limitations period tolled during French but not during Hicks. Because the limitations period was not tolled during the pendency of the Hicks case, Jackson’s contract claim was untimely filed and, consequently, the trial court properly entered JNOV on that claim. The judgment was affirmed.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries by the Colorado Court of Appeals on May 12, 2011, can be found here.

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