Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How and when does the discovery rule provide relief against affirmative defense of limitations?

Discovery rule defers accrual of claim when it applies, triggering the running of the SoL at the point of discovery

“As a general rule, a cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when facts come into existence that authorize a party to seek a judicial remedy.” Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Knott, 128 S.W.3d 211, 221 (Tex. 2003). The discovery rule operates to defer accrual of a claim until the plaintiffs knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the wrongful act causing their injury. Salinas v. Gary Pools, Inc., 31 S.W.3d 333, 336 (Tex.App.--San Antonio 2000, no pet.).

The discovery rule always applies to DTPA claims. Id.; see also Tex.Bus.&Com.Code Ann. § 17.565 (stating that DTPA suits must be filed “within two years after the date on which the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice occurred or within two years after the consumer discovered or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered the occurrence of the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice.”). Beyond that, the discovery rule is “a very limited exception to statutes of limitations” and applies only when the plaintiffs’ injury is inherently undiscoverable and objectively verifiable. Wagner & Brown, Ltd. v. Horwood, 58 S.W.3d 732, 734 (Tex. 2001).

 “An injury is inherently undiscoverable if it is, by its nature, unlikely to be discovered within the prescribed limitations period despite due diligence.” Id. at 734-35. “Inherently undiscoverable” does not mean that particular plaintiffs did not discover their particular injuries within the limitations period. Id. at 735. The issue is whether the injury is of a type that generally is discoverable in the exercise of reasonable diligence. Id. “Knowledge of facts, conditions, or circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to make inquiry . . . is equivalent to knowledge of the cause of action for limitation purposes.” Southwest Olshan Found. Repair Co., LLC v. Gonzales, ___ S.W.3d ___, ___, 2011 WL 149870, at *4 (Tex.App.--San Antonio Jan. 19, 2011, no pet.h.).
When plaintiffs plead the discovery rule, a defendant who moves for summary judgment on the affirmative defense of limitations must prove as a matter of law that there is no genuine issue of material fact about when the plaintiffs should have discovered their injury in the exercise of reasonable diligence. See KPMG Peat Marwick v. Harrison County Hous. Fin. Corp., 988 S.W.2d 746, 748 (Tex. 1999); Salinas, 31 S.W.3d at 336. If the defendant conclusively establishes that the statute of limitations bars the plaintiffs’ claims, the plaintiffs must then submit summary judgment proof raising a fact issue in avoidance of the statute of limitations. See KPMG Peat Marwick, 988 S.W.2d at 748; Salinas, 31 S.W.3d at 336. 
SOURCE: El Paso Court of Appeals - 08-09-00116-CV - 4/27/11