By: James C. Dalton
Your right to sue, and the legal remedies available to you, depend not only on the particular facts of your case, but also on the legal basis or theory of your claim. As noted in an earlier blog regarding the Discovery Rule, statutes of limitation require that claims be brought within specific time periods, depending on the type of claim. Failure to do so will lead to dismissal of your claim. A claim for breach of contract, for example, must be brought within four years of when the breach occurred, while a claim for personal injuries due to negligence is subject to a shorter, two year limitation period. Determining how to categorize a particular claim is not always a simple matter – is your claim for faulty construction/repair work a contract claim, or, a negligence claim? Or both? The legal category of your claim will also impact the nature and amount of damages recoverable in court.
Courts often address the distinction between contract and tort (negligence) claims in cases involving the performance of contract obligations, applying the Gist of the Action Doctrine, which the Pennsylvania Superior Court, in Reardon v. Allegheny College, explained as follows:
The gist of the action doctrine acts to foreclose tort claims: 1) arising solely from the contractual relationship between the parties; 2) when the alleged duties breached were grounded in the contract itself; 3) where any liability stems from the contract; and 4) when the tort claim essentially duplicates the breach of contract claim or where the success of the tort claim is dependent on the success of the breach of contract claim.
Proper analysis of the facts and available legal theories of your case is essential to protecting your rights and maximizing your recovery. Please contact James C. Dalton, Esq. for further information.