Time Runs Out on Injured Football Player

Jan 13, 2005

A North Carolina state appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a student-athlete’s negligence claim against a Diocese, a high school and several school officials, finding that the plaintiff had not made any allegations that would toll the applicable statute of limitations.
Marcus J. DePalma, a football player at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, injured his knee and ankle in an October 15, 1999 game. DePalma sued on May 31, 2003, claiming that the school failed to inform him of the seriousness of his injury, failed to properly treat his injury, failed to properly supervise him, and failed to properly hire, train, and supervise certain school personnel. He also asserted an individual claim against the athletic trainer, for “breach [of] his duty as a paramedical professional.”
Noting that the complaint was filed outside the 3-year statute of limitations, the defendants moved to dismiss, and were successful.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that “the events which lead up to the injury complained of did not occur until August 2000 through November 2000”; that “the facts of the injury were never revealed by the Defendants”; and that the “date of discovery of this deception was November 17 2000 and should be the controlling date for the court to determine the issue of the Statute of Limitations.”
In rejecting that argument, the appeals court noted that “the factual allegations in the complaint unequivocally assert that defendants’ negligence began on the date of Marcus’s 15 October 1999 injury, and the complaint fails to allege any negligent actions by the defendants between August and November 2000.” The court also declined to consider allegations that the plaintiff made for the first time, on appeal.
The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that he did not learn of defendants’ negligence until November 2000. The plaintiff had claimed that it did not know the “true extent” of the injuries until then. The court wrote that “as soon as the injury becomes apparent to the claimant or should reasonably become apparent, the cause of action is complete and the limitation period begins to run. It does not matter that further damage could occur; such further damage is only aggravation of the original injury.” Pembee Mfg. Corp. v. Cape Fear Constr. Co., 313 N.C. at 493, 329 S.E.2d at 354 (1985) (citing Matthieu v. Gas Co., 269 N.C. 212, 152 S.E. 2d 336 (1967)).
“By its own terms, plaintiff’s complaint alleges that defendants’ negligence began on 15 October 1999” and that it is “undisputed” that that is when the injury occurred.
DePalma, et al. v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, et al.; Ct.App.N.C.; NO. COA04-206; 12/7/04
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiffs) Marcus J. DePalma, Arlene M. DePalma, and Philip N. DePalma, pro se. (for defendants) Poyner & Spruill, by J. Nicholas Ellis.


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