Children Can Sue When They Become Adults for the Wrongs Done to Them When They Were Children
I Was Lead Poisoned at Age Three (3). I Am Now 19 Years Old. Can I Sue on My Own Behalf or Is My Claim Barred by the Statute of Limitations – Is It Too Late?
What rights does a young adult have to bring an action dating back many years to a time when he or she was a child? An example may be instructive on this issue. A young adult, 19 years of age, learns that when she was 3 years old she suffered from an elevated lead level. The Department of Health had come to her apartment which was owned by a private landlord. The Department of Health issued violations for the presence of lead based paint. The violations were ultimately corrected by the landlord. Her mother never sued.
Throughout her school years she struggled with her school work. Ultimately, through hard work and sweat and tears, she obtained a high school diploma. She now attends college but has a nagging feeling that she was damaged by the lead poisoning. Can she still sue the landlord for the lead poisoning?
Everyone is aware of the statute of limitations. It has been 16 years since the lead poisoning. Surely it must be too late.
The fact is that in such a case she can still sue!
Despite the passage of many years, in New York State there is what is called a “toll” of the statute of limitations for children. This is found in CPLR 208. In other words, the law provides a remedy for the person under a “disability” – which the law includes to refer to a child. The statute of limitations may be suspended until she reaches her 18th birthday. If the statute of limitations for the negligence of the landlord is 3 years from the date of diagnosis, then this injured person can still sue for her damages.
This very important law has many exceptions and applications, and each case is different. If you were a victim of an accident while a child and your parent did not bring an action, you may still be able to sue. This applies to all cases including car accidents, bike accidents, trip and falls, assaults, abuse, burns and a myriad of other cases. Of course, different statutes of limitations and issues may apply to each case and immediate action should be taken in order to preserve any rights which you may still have.
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