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Students Have One Year After Reaching the Age of Eighteen to File Personal Injury Lawsuit Against School

K-12 Education Publications

The Illinois Appellate Court (Second District) recently determined that a student who was injured while at school as a minor could not pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the school district because she did not file the lawsuit within one year of her eighteenth birthday. In Lee v. Naperville, a student was injured while playing soccer in a physical education class approximately three months before her eighteenth birthday. She filed a lawsuit against the school district the day before her twentieth birthday, alleging that the district was negligent and engaged in willful and wanton misconduct that caused her injury. The school district moved to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that it was untimely because it was filed more than a year after the student’s eighteenth birthday. The student countered that she had two years to file her lawsuit and so it was timely. The circuit court agreed with the school district, dismissing the lawsuit, and the student subsequently appealed.

On appeal, the Appellate Court looked at the possible application of several statutes that set forth the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit and reviewed a series of cases applying those different statutes. The student argued for the application of a section of the Code of Civil Procedure, which provides that individuals who are minors at the time of an injury have two years after reaching the age of eighteen to file a lawsuit. The Court, however, ultimately determined that the one year limitations period set forth in Section 8-101(a) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/8-101(a)) applied. The Court reasoned that the broad protection for governmental entities provided by the Tort Immunity Act trumps any other statutes of limitation. Because the student did not file the lawsuit within one year of her eighteenth birthday as required by the Tort Immunity Act, her lawsuit was not timely. Accordingly, the Appellate Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit.