August 9, 2013

Six years to bring drug test claims, says MN Supreme Court

Posted in Drug and Alcohol Testing, Limitation of Actions, Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act, Statutes of Limitation tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:39 am by Tom Jacobson

 “Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin into the future.”
Fly Like an Eagle, Steve Miller Band (1976)

Fly Like an EagleDeadlines. They are those points in  time by which we have to get stuff done. If we miss them, we suffer the consequences.

When it comes to lawsuits, those deadlines are called statutes of limitation, and missing them has a very severe consequence: if claimants do not start their lawsuits within the time allowed by law, they are forever barred from doing so, no matter how good their cases may have been. Those deadlines vary depending on the nature of each case, and sometimes the courts have to step in and decide which statute of limitations applies.

For example, in the recent case of Sipe v STS Manufacturing, Inc. the Minnesota Supreme Court had to decide which statute of limitation applies to claims for wrongful discharge brought under the Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (“MDATWA”). In that case, Terrance Sipe was fired in 2008 after a positive drug test. Nearly three years later, he sued STS and Labor Ready/True Blue, claiming they violated MDATWA, which gives an employee a cause of action against those who violate the statute. STS and Labor Ready argued that Sipe’s claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations “for libel, slander, assault, battery, false imprisonment, or other tort resulting in personal injury.” Sipe argued that the six-year time limit for “liability created by statute” applied. The Court agreed with Sipe. Specifically, the Court reasoned:

Because Sipe’s claim under [MDATWA] was created by statute, …  it is subject to the six-year statute of limitations … as a cause of action “upon a liability created by statute.”

What you need to know: Time does indeed slip into the future, and as it does, the deadlines for taking action to protect legal rights draw nearer. Those deadlines vary depending on the nature of each claim.  Some are measured in years – others in days. Therefore, those who think  they may have any legal claim need to act quickly to avoid losing their legal rights. For claims under MDATWA, that timeline is six years from date of the violation. This makes it that much more important for employers to know and understand how drug and alcohol testing can be done legally in the Minnesota workplace, and it also underscores the importance of record retention, for violations can be challenged up to six years after the fact.

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The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2013 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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