‘Traps’ Update: Short Statutes of Limitation

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022
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Traps for the Unwary, the Massachusetts Bar Association’s award-winning malpractice prevention handbook, is the newest exclusive member benefit for the MBA’s 2021-22 association year. The expanded Seventh Edition is available now as an e-publication to all current MBA members, who can access and download their e-copy from their MBA profile. (See detailed instructions at www.massbar.org/Traps.)

Last published in 2011, Traps for the Unwary looks at some of the malpractice hazards for attorneys who practice in a general, civil practice. The Seventh Edition updates citations and entries from the previous six editions and adds 50% more content across 18 chapters. 

Short statutes of limitations

Chapter 10, “Limitations, Repose, Notice Requirements and Possible Relief,” lists 50 short statutes of limitations and 25 possible exceptions or paths for relief from those statutes. The Supreme Judicial Court recently clarified one such possible relief.  

In 2020, the court ordered that that “[a]ll civil statutes of limitations were tolled … from March 17, 2020, though June 30, 2020,” due to the exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Melendez, 488 Mass. 338 (Sept. 3, 2021), the court held that the order stopped the running of the limitations period in all cases from March 17, 2020, through June 30, 2020, and was not limited to those where the limitations period expired between March 17, 2020, and June 30, 2020.

Therefore, in many cases where the cause of action accrued before June 30, 2020, the order continues to extend the permissible period for filing suit.