Aggressive Advocates For Your Rights

Timing is Not Everything, Knowing When You Were Hurt Helps Too

In Edwards v. Thorpe, we learn that once again, timing is everything when it comes to bringing an action but also having an understanding of when the injury actually occurred. 876 F.Supp. 693 (1995). In this case, the Plaintiff, Causley ... 

In Edwards v. Thorpe, we learn that once again, timing is everything when it comes to bringing an action but also having an understanding of when the injury actually occurred. 876 F.Supp. 693 (1995). In this case, the Plaintiff, Causley Edwards brought a suit approximately 5 years after when his injury occurred. Though the court said that his argument likely would have been moot any way, it ruled that a malpractice claim was untimely and time barred.

Edwards was apparently taken hostage during a robbery attempt at the bank where he was assistant manager. After the attempt, Edwards sought legal representation from Defendant Thorpe. On March 24, 1989, about four months after the robbery attempt, Thorpe wrote a letter to Edward's employer, which began "I am Causley Edwards' attorney and have been informed by Mr. Edwards that the FBI considers him a suspect in a recent robbery attempt...."Edwards, 876 F.Supp. at 694.

This is what Edwards alleged was the source of his injury, because Thorpe had "no reason to believe that Plaintiff was a suspect in any FBI investigation." Edwards, 876 F.Supp. at 694. The bank suspended Edwards without pay on April 10, 1989 directly because of that letter. The suspension was to last until the FBI investigation cleared Edwards or he was prosecuted and acquitted. Prosecution of the actual perpetrator eventually exonerated Edwards in April, 1994.

At that point, Edwards tried to bring a case against his attorney, Defendant Joe Thorpe, alleging that he was unable to work for 5 years because of Thorpe's malpractice. His argument was summarized as follows:

[A] limitation period begins to run, not when the defendant acts improperly, but, rather, when the plaintiff is harmed by the defendant's misconduct.... [P]laintiff had no cause of action until it was officially determined that he was not a criminal suspect. Had he in fact been arrested, charged, and/or convicted of the
attempted robbery, he would have suffered no damages as a result of defendant's misconduct.... Edwards, 876 F.Supp. at 694.

However, the court stated that this was a self defeating argument because the authority Plaintiff cited contradicted his statements since it states that the limitation period for a tort action begins when "when the alleged *695 breach of duty occurs." Garcia v. Community Legal Services, 362 Pa.Super. 484, 524 A.2d 980, 986 (1987). That meant that the statute began to run on Edwards' claims when Thorpe sent the letter to Edward's employer.

The mistake that Edwards clearly made was about having a firm grasp on not just the timing of when one can bring an action, but understanding exactly when the injury was incurred. The lesson learned is two-fold: that an action must be brought in a timely manner, but also when exactly your injury was. In this case, the confusion was over when the injury started. It seems clearly that had Edwards realized the injury occurred when the letter was received and he was suspended and not just when he was cleared, he would have brought the suit much earlier. So while timing here is clearly important, a firm understanding of when you were injured is important as well.

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