Opening The Flood Gates

By Skip Winters

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown declared a statewide emergency that began on March 8, 2020. Subsequently, House Bill 4212 extended the statute of limitations for claims that have expired or will expire during the state of emergency, which is presently scheduled to remain in effect until December 31st, 2021, under Governor Brown’s most recent eighth extension. (Executive Order No. 21-15). House Bill 4212 also provides that the statute of limitations grace period will expire 90 days after the state of emergency is no longer in effect. The additional 90 days will, in theory, provide a short ramping up period for the courts and attorneys to get their footing before requiring filings. Under the current extended order, a potential state court claim that would have otherwise been subject to the statute of limitations at some point during the pandemic is still viable until March 31, 2022. Under these calculations, for instance, if a two-year statute of limitations expired on April 1, 2020, then the extended statute of limitations would expire on March 31, 2022. Any statute of limitations set to expire after March 31, 2022, would not be affected by House Bill 4212 under the current order. Obviously, given that we are already on the eighth extension, the governor could extend the emergency even further, which will, in turn, push out the potential filing date for claims. While the extension does not apply to criminal actions or appeals brought in Oregon state courts, it will apply to most civil lawsuits – including causes of action for negligence, contracts, and employment. What effect do we expect this will have on filings when the last extension finally expires? The title of this article sums it up. There will, undoubtedly, be a surge of filings. All claims that would have expired during the pandemic, or which will expire soon after (those that arose in 2019, for example), will be filed. Looking ahead, now would be a good time to make sure the sandbags are filled, and the basement is waterproofed. The storm clouds and a flood of new claims are on the horizon.

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