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Court Addresses Question Concerning the Filing of Papers and Proceedings Under the CPLR When the Last Day to File Falls on a Weekend or Holiday

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  • Posted on: Mar 25 2019

A common issue for litigators concerns the computation of time for statute of limitations purposes, answers to pleadings, and responses to motions and discovery requests. In particular, what to do when the last day for filing falls on a weekend or holiday.

Under Rule 6(a)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, when the last day to file falls on a weekend or holiday, the filing date is carried over to the next business day. See also Rule 26(a)(1)(C).   Under the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”), however, there is no provision that addresses the effect of a due date falling on a weekend or holiday.

Given the absence of such a provision, New York practitioners have looked to New York General Construction Law (“GCL”) § 25-a for guidance. Like its federal counterparts, this provision provides that when a filing date lands on a weekend or holiday, the filing date is carried over to “the next succeeding business day.” GCL § 25-a (“When any period of time, computed from a certain day, within which or after which or before which an act is authorized or required to be done, ends on a Saturday, Sunday or a public holiday, such act may be done on the next succeeding business day”). See also Wilson v. Exigence of Team Health, 151 A.D.3d 1849 (4th Dept. 2017); Richey v. Hamm, 78 A.D.3d 1600, 1601 (4th Dept. 2010) (finding that the filing of a summons and complaint on the next business day following the expiration of the statute of limitations, which fell on a Saturday, was timely under GCL § 25a-(1)); Way v. NIHAR Corp., 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 33816 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County 2010); Butchers’ Mut. Casualty Co. v. City of New York, 182 Misc. 809 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County 1944) (finding that the action was timely filed where the period within which the plaintiffs could sue expired on January 1, a public holiday, and January 2 fell on Sunday).

On March 12, 2019, Justice Adam Silvera of the New York Supreme Court, New York County, addressed this issue in the context of the statute of limitations, holding that, under GCL § 25-a, the plaintiffs timely commenced their action even though the last day to file their complaint fell on a Sunday. Moran v. Delacruz-Espinal, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 30616(U) (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County Mar. 12, 2019) (here).

Moran v. Delacruz-Espinal

Moran arose from a motor vehicle accident occurring on February 5, 2014, at a gas station near an intersection in lower Manhattan. Plaintiffs, Holger Moran and Mariel Guaman (“Guaman”), alleged that they were seriously injured as the result of a collision between the motor vehicle in which they were passengers and a vehicle owned by defendant Goddard Riverside Community Center and driven by defendant Shemir Donaldson Prentiss.

Plaintiffs filed the action on February 6, 2017, three years and one day after the accident at issue.

Defendants moved to dismiss on the following grounds: (1) the statute of limitations as set forth in CPLR § 214(5) expired prior to the filing of the action; and (2) Plaintiffs did not effectuate service of the summons and complaint, and file the corresponding affidavits of service, in compliance with CPLR § 306-b.

The Law Applicable to the Dispute

Under CPLR § 214(5), the statute of limitations for a negligence cause of action is three years. Once the complaint is filed, pursuant to CPLR § 306-b, the plaintiff has one hundred twenty (120) days to effectuate service on the defendant(s). Estate of Jervis v. Teachers Ins. & Annuity Ass’n, 279 A.D.2d 367 (1st Dept. 2001) (finding that a plaintiff who timely filed a summons and complaint but failed to properly effectuate service on the defendant within the one hundred twenty- day period was not entitled to an extension). CPLR § 306-b provides that “[i]f service is not made upon a defendant within the [120-day period] provided in this section, the court, upon motion shall dismiss the action without prejudice as to the defendant or upon good cause shown or in the interest of justice, extend time of service.” Under CPLR § 201, “an action … must be commenced within the time specified in this article … No court shall extend the time limited by law for the commencement of an action.”

Under GCL § 25-a: “When any period of time, computed from a certain day, within which or after which or before which an act is authorized or required to be done, ends on a Saturday, Sunday or a public holiday, such act may be done on the next succeeding business day.” “Public holidays” are defined in GCL § 24.

The Court’s Initial Ruling

The Court held that Plaintiffs “failed to file suit within the three-year Statute of Limitations.”  The Court also held that Plaintiffs “did not effectuate service within the one hundred twenty-day time limit[,]” though Plaintiffs’ counsel did provide “good cause for the failure to effectuate service ….” However, since Plaintiffs failed “to timely commence suit, the court [could not] use its discretion under CPLR § 306-b to extend the time of service.” Consequently, the Court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that Plaintiffs violated CPLR § 201 and CPLR § 214, and, therefore, were not entitled to an extension under CPLR § 306-b.

The Motion to Renew

Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion to renew. Plaintiffs argued that the Court misapprehended both the law and the facts, as the action was timely commenced within the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs contended that the Court misapprehended the date in which the statute of limitations ran, as such date fell on a weekend. Plaintiffs further contended that the Court overlooked the law regarding filing papers when a deadline falls on a weekend. Slip Op. at **1-2.

Although much of the Court’s decision focused on whether the motion was one to reargue or to renew, the Court addressed the timeliness issue, finding that it had overlooked the application of GCL § 25-a in holding that the action was brought after the statute of limitations had run. Id. at *4. As such, since the last day to file the complaint fell on a Sunday, the filing of the summons and complaint on the succeeding Monday was timely. Id.

Takeaway

When it comes to filing dates, the old idiom, “better safe than sorry”, serves as good advice. Thus, it is best to avoid situations in which there is a question as to whether a filing would be deemed timely filed, especially in the context of the statute of limitations.  If, however, the circumstances do not permit such caution, Moran shows that GCL § 25-a may be available to save the day.

 

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