Since being recommended for admission to the Minnesota bar, I have been hit hard with questions from clients regarding Minnesota subrogation, including relevant statutes of limitations. One of the most frequent questions I receive has to do with the Minnesota statute of limitations for personal injury actions. For subrogation professionals outside Minnesota, its statutory statutes of limitations may not be clear. A quick, surface reading of Minnesota statutes and dozens of online resources may lead to the conclusion that the statute of limitations for all personal injury actions is only two (2) years, but that is not the case.
To the surprise of many, the correct limitation period for personal injury actions based on negligence is six (6) years, not two (2). M.S.A. § 541.05 establishes a six (6) year period “for criminal conversation, or for any other injury to the person or rights of another, not arising on contract, and not hereinafter enumerated.” M.S.A. § 541.05 subd. 1(5). Minnesota case law confirms that a negligence claim for personal injury is governed by this provision. D.M.S. v. Barber, 645 N.W.2d 383, 386 (Minn. 2002) (“Generally, personal injury actions grounded on negligence must be commenced within the six (6) year period of limitation provided in M.S.A. § 541.05(5).”).
What makes Minnesota law confusing is a rather innocuous statute entitled “Two- or three-year limitations.” Found in M.S.A. § 541.07, this statute provides as follows:
§ 541.07. Two- or three-year limitations.
Except where the Uniform Commercial Code, this section, section 541.05, 541.073, 541.076, or 604.205 otherwise prescribes, the following actions shall be commenced within two years:
(1) for libel, slander, assault, battery, false imprisonment, or other tort resulting in personal injury… M.S.A. § 541.07(1).
It seems pretty straightforward that a personal injury action has a two (2) year statute of limitations, but appearances can be deceiving. That two (2) year period does not apply if a different Minnesota code provision—like the six (6) year section (§ 541.05) otherwise prescribes. Unfortunately, many online “resources” and charts mistakenly cite § 541.07 for the proposition that a two (2) year statute of limitations applies to all personal injury actions.
The same six (6) year statute of limitations that applies to personal injury actions also applies to negligence actions for property damage. M.S.A. § 541.05 subd. 1(4). Moreover, Minnesota has a shorter period for claims based on strict liability of product manufacturers and sellers. That period is only four (4) years. M.S.A. § 541.05 subd. 2 (“Unless otherwise provided by law, any action based on the strict liability of the defendant and arising from the manufacture, sale, use, or consumption of a product shall be commenced within four (4) years.”). For an ordinary negligence claim seeking recovery of personal injury or property damages, the limitation period is six (6) years. If a potentially defective product is at issue, the limitation period is four (4) years for a strict liability claim, and six (6) years if based on negligence.
If you’ve closed down a workers’ compensation, health insurance, or med pay subrogation file older than two (2) years because you thought statute of limitations had run out on you – you may want to take another look.
If you have any questions regarding this article, subrogating in Minnesota, or subrogation in general, please contact Tim Pagel at [email protected].