Is Kathy Wone's Civil Suit Valid Under the DC Statute of Limitations?

Some discussion has ensued amongst the commenters on the previous post regarding additional legal support being added for Kathy Wone’s civil suit. At issue is the statute of limitations in the District of Columbia for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. According to DC code:

§ 16-2702. Party plaintiff; statute of limitations.

An action pursuant to this chapter shall be brought by and in the name of the personal representative of the deceased person, and within one year after the death of the person injured.

(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 596, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; 1973 Ed., § 16-2702; 1981 Ed., § 16-2702.)

This might lead one to believe that since the civil suit was filed on November 25, 2008, over 2 years subsequent to Robert Wone’s murder, that the case would not be considered valid. While none of the editors is an attorney, our research shows that exceptions have been made to the statute of limitations. These exceptions have been granted under what is known as the discovery rule. The running of a limitations period in a wrongful death action has been held to commence when the party bringing suit discovers, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the causal connection between the decedent’s death and its cause. The discovery rule may be applied in wrongful death actions to determine whether the decedent knew or should have known of the cause of his illness or injury before his death, so as to start the running of the limitations period in the wrongful death action before the decedent’s death.

An argument can be made in this case, that until evidence from the criminal investigation was released, that the causal connection between the actions of the defendants and the death of Robert Wone were not known to the plaintiff (in other words, this information, until made public, was not discoverable) and a wrongful death claim could not be filed.

In fact, in the document Estate of Robert E. Wone (Katherine E. Wone) v. Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky, Dylan Ward, paragraph 51 and 52 explicitly state:

51. As a result of Defendants’ fraudulent concealment, as well as the secrecy of the ongoing grand jury investigation into Robert Wone’s murder, Plantiff did not gain knowledge until reviewing the MPD Affidavit, despite Plantiff’s reasonable diligence, of the existence and the facts forming the basis of this wrongful death claim against the Defendants.

52. Plaintiff filed this action less than one month after learning from the MPD Affidavit of Plaintiff’s wrongful death claim against Defendants.

This certainly gives credence to the validity of the civil suit. Additionally, while the Defendants have filed a motion to stay in the civil suit until the criminal case is completed, their legal counsel has not filed a motion to dismiss the case. Apparently the defendants’ legal team feels that the statute of limitations is not grounds for dismissal of the case.

– Posted by Michael