Legislation Introduced to Amend Statute of Limitations Applicable to Third-Person Negligence Claims Brought By Recipients of Workers’ Compensation

Jun 29th, 2013 | By Douglas C. Melcher | Category: Short Articles

On June 18, 2013, Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Marion Barry introduced the Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2013 (B20-345), which would permanently amend a statute of limitations contained in the District of Columbia Workers’ Compensation Act of 1979 (“WCA”). The WCA currently provides that, in cases where a private-sector employee is injured due to the negligence of a third person, the acceptance of a workers’ compensation award “operate[s] as an assignment to the employer of all rights of the person entitled to compensation to recover damages against such third person unless [the person entitled to compensation] shall commence an action against such third person within 6 months after such award.” D.C. Code § 32-1535(b). The proposed legislation would amend this statute of limitations by adding the following qualification: “If the employer fails to commence an action against such third person within 90 days after the cause of action is assigned under this section, the right to bring the action shall revert to the person entitled to compensation.” B20-345. This amendment would apply “to causes of action for negligence for which the 3-year statute of limitations [generally applicable to negligence claims] has not yet expired.” Id. The D.C. Council has taken steps to enact emergency and temporary legislation (designated B20-338 and B20-339, respectively) that would temporarily implement the aforementioned change to the statute of limitations while permanent legislation (i.e., B20-345) is being considered. For further background about the stated purposes for changing the statute of limitations and enacting emergency legislation, see the Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2013 (PR20-338). To view the resolution, click here. To view the permanent legislation, click here.

[Update: The emergency and temporary legislation were enacted subsequent to the publication of this article.]

Douglas C. Melcher is a civil litigator who has more than a decade of experience in the private practice of law. He has written numerous articles for D.C. Law Report and other publications, and is the author of the book Tort Claims and Defenses in the District of Columbia. For further information about Mr. Melcher, click here.