Statute of Limitations for Wantonness Now Two Years - Ex Parte Capstone Building Corp.
In Ex parte Capstone Building Corp., [Ms. 1090966 Jun. 3, 2011] __ So. 3d __ Ala. 2011), the Alabama Supreme Court expressly overruled McKenzie v. Killian, 887 So. 2d 861 (Ala. 2004) and held that wantonness claims are now subject to the two year statute of limitations found in the catchall provision of Ala. Code 6-2-38(l) instead of the six-year statute of limitations found in Ala. Code 6-2-34(1), which applies to: "actions for any trespass to person or liberty, such as false imprisonment or assault and battery." The Court reasoned: "Under the choices made for us by the legislature, our task is simply to decide if wantonness is intent. If it is, a claim alleging it falls within [Ala. Code ¤ 6-2-34(1)]; if, by definition, it is something different, a claim alleging it falls outside that statute." Because the Court concluded that wantonness does not require intent, it concluded that such claims do not fall within the governance of ¤ 6-2-34(1), which provides for a six-year statute of limitations. Instead, the Court concluded that "claims alleging reckless and wanton conduct fall within the governance of the catchall provision in ¤ 6-2-38(l) for a two-year limitations period for '[a]ll actions for any injury to the person or rights of another not arising from contract and not specifically enumerated in this section.'" With respect to the retroactive application of the decision, the Court held that "for a person as to whom the six-year limitations period previously announced by this Court will, under the rule announced today, expire on a date less than two years from today's date, we conclude that it is just and equitable that the limitations period not be affected by today's decision. For a person whose limitations period would expire more than two years from today, however, equity does not require that that person have more time to bring his or her action than would a party whose cause of action accrues on the date of this decision. In other words, as a result of our holding, litigants whose causes of action have accrued on or before the date of this decision shall have two years from today's date to bring their action unless and to the extent that the time for filing their action under the six-year limitations period announced in McKenzie would expire sooner." Chief Justice Cobb dissented, stating: "I believe that this Court's willingness to change its basic pronouncements of the law as its composition changes undermines its judicial authority and equates the Court with some sort of 'other legislature' to the detriment of all the courts in this State.'"