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NY Court: Statute of Limitations Means What It Says

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The New York Law Journal reports that the Empire State's intermediate court of appeals has refused to disregard the state's three-year statute of limitations on product liability suits.

Warren Robare had quit smoking in 1991, admitting then that he knew of tobacco's dangerous propensities. He sued all the tobacco companies in 1997. Too late, said the court.

Robare's attorney cited Zumpano v. Quinn, 6 NY3d 666 (2006), in which the Court of Appeals (NY's highest court) denied plaintiff's claim that equitable estoppel required disregarding the statute of limitations. That suit had been pressed by victims of sexual abuse by priests. The Zumpano Court had suggested that equitable estoppel could be invoked if a plaintiff refrained from filing a timely action due to the "fraud, misrepresentations or deception" of the defendant. Robare argued that Big Tobacco was guilty of just such fraud, but the court was unpersuaded, since any alleged fraud clearly did not hoodwink Robare. The fact that Robare had started smoking at age 9, and had suffered a head injury at age 13, did not vitiate his knowledge at age 30 of the dangers for which he decided to sue at age 37, noted the court.

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