Appeals Court holds statute of limitations ran, even though victim never received mandatory notice of commencement
In Jackson v. United States, the plaintiff filed a Federal Tort Claims Act administrative claim with the government. Under the law, that claim must be filed within two years of injury, and if the responding agency denies the claim, the victim must file his or her lawsuit within six months of the written denial. Jackson's claim was denied, but the notice of denial was returned to the agency, not deliverable as addressed. The agency did not follow-up and did not send the notice to Jackson's actual address as referenced in the claim. No one disputed the fact that Jackson did not recieve the notice and was unaware that her claim had been denied. Nevertheless, because she filed suit more than six months after the notice was sent, the government sought summary disposition and the trial judge granted it.
Jackson appealed, arguing that the well-established doctrine of "equitable estoppel" should apply, tolling (or extending) the statute of limitations, given the documentation confirming that Jackson never received a copy of the government's denial of her claim, and was therefore unaware that her six-month filing period had commenced to run. The Court of Appeals majority rejected Jackson's claim and upheld the dismissal of her claim. Judge Helene White dissented, pointing out that this was an appropriate case for application of the estoppel doctrine.