Section 1981 Claim Is Subject to Four-Year Statute of Limitations

Johnson v. Lucent Techs. Inc., 2011 WL 3332368 (9th Cir. 2011)

In 2008, Russell H. Johnson, III, an African-American, sued Lucent and the administrator of his disability insurance benefits for retaliation in violation of Title VII, violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and intentional infliction of emotional distress in retaliation for his filing suit against Lucent in 2005 for stopping payment of his disability benefits. In an amended pleading, Johnson added the LAPD as a defendant and added claims for medical benefits malpractice, violation of RICO, extortion, psychiatric coercion, etc. The district court dismissed Johnson's claims, but the Ninth Circuit reversed in part, holding that Johnson's Section 1981 claim (guaranteeing all persons the same right to make and enforce contracts as is enjoyed by white citizens) was subject to a four-year (not a two-year) statute of limitations. The court further held that although Johnson's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress was subject to a two-year statute of limitations, it was possible that he "experienced severe harm when Lucent filed its petition to terminate benefits, when [another court in which Johnson was litigating against Lucent] granted the petition, or when Lucent actually stopped payment" – all of which occurred fewer than two years before Johnson filed his latest lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal of Johnson's Title VII claim (no equitable tolling was applicable) and his fraudulent concealment and abuse of process claims. See also Withrow v. Bache Halsey Stuart Shield, Inc., 2011 WL 3672778 (9th Cir. 2011) (claim for unpaid ERISA benefits was not barred by statute of limitations).

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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