§ 6-2-3, Ala. Code 1975 (Statute of Limitations Savings Clause) & Motion to Dismiss - Ex Parte Price


Ex parte Price, [Ms. 1151041, Apr. 14, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2017). In this per curiam plurality opinion (Stuart, Bolin, Parker, and Main, JJ. concur; Murdock, J., concurs specially; Shaw and Bryan, JJ., dissent; Wise, J., recuses), the Court grants certiorari and reverses the June 17, 2016 opinion of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals which had found claims time-barred and therefore properly dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds by the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court.

The opinion highlights the field of operation and construction of § 6-2-3, Ala. Code 1975, which states

In actions seeking relief on the ground of fraud where the statute has created a bar, the claim must not be considered as having accrued until the discovery by the aggrieved party of the fact constituting the fraud, after which he must have two years within which to prosecute his action.

Ms. *20. “The savings clause of § 6-2-3 generally applies not only to fraud, but also to any cause of action fraudulently concealed.” Ms. *21, n. 2, citing DGB, LLC v. Hinds, 55 So. 3d 218, 225, n. 3 (Ala. 2010).

Application of § 6-2-3’s saving clause requires the following:

“This Court has stated: ‘When, as in this case, the plaintiff’s complaint on its face is barred by the statute of limitations, the complaint must also show that he or she falls within the savings clause of § 6-2-3.’ Miller v. Mobile County Bd. of Health, 409 So. 2d 420, 422 (Ala. 1981). ‘[T]he burden is upon he who claims the benefit of § 6-2-3 to show that he comes within it.’ Amason v. First State Bank of Lineville, 369 So. 2d 547, 551 (Ala. 1979). However, a ‘dismissal based on the statute of limitations is proper only if, from the face of the complaint, it is apparent that the tolling provisions do not apply.’ Travis v. Ziter, 681 So. 2d 1348, 1351 (Ala. 1996).

“This Court has held that to show that a plaintiff’s claims fall within the savings clause of § 6-2-3 a complaint must allege the time and circumstances of the discovery of the cause of action. See, e.g., Angell v. Shannon, 455 So. 2d 823, 823–24 (Ala. 1984); Papastefan v. B & L Constr. Co., 356 So. 2d 158, 160 (Ala. 1978). The complaint must also allege the facts or circumstances by which the defendants concealed the cause of action or injury and what prevented the plaintiff from discovering the facts surrounding the injury. See, e.g., Smith v. National Sec. Ins. Co., 860 So. 2d 343, 345, 347 (Ala. 2003); Lowe v. East End Mem’l Hosp. & Health Ctrs., 477 So. 2d 339, 341-42 (Ala. 1985); Miller, 409 So. 2d at 422. See also Amason, 369 So. 2d at 550.”

Ms. *20-21, quoting DGB, LLC v. Hinds, 55 So. 3d at 226. Here, because plaintiff’s complaint “alleges the time and circumstances of his discovery of [his claims] ... the facts and circumstances by which [defendants] concealed their fraud ... and the circumstances that prevented [plaintiff] from discovering the fraud within the statutory limitations period” § 6-2-3 was properly triggered such that the two-year statute of limitations would not bar plaintiff’s claims. Ms. *21. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals is reversed and the case remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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