Supreme Court of Alaska (2022)
In Park v. Spayd, 509 P.3d 1014 (Alaska 2022), the supreme court held that, according to the discovery rule, the statute of limitations begins to run as soon as a reasonable person would have discovered the elements of the cause of action. (Id. at 1019). Beginning in 2003, a nurse had been prescribing opioids to a man who became reliant on the drugs. (Id. at 1017). The man’s substance abuse led to trouble in his finances and marriage. (Id.). In 2011, his wife filed for divorce. (Id.). Six years later, the former husband died of a drug overdose. (Id.). In 2019, following the nurse’s arrest for unlawful distribution of opioids, the former wife sued the nurse for negligence and professional malpractice. (Id at 1017). The superior court granted the nurse’s motion for summary judgment, on the grounds that the claim was time-barred by the statute of limitations. (Id.). The supreme court affirmed the lower court’s decision, rejecting the wife’s argument that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until her former husband’s death in 2018. (Id. at 1020). The court reasoned that the discovery rule dictates that the cause of action begins to accrue when sufficient information exists to prompt a reasonable person to investigate a cause of action. (Id.). The timing of the final injury is not relevant to inquiry. (Id.). Accordingly, by 2010 the wife had enough information about the nurse’s role in her husband’s addiction to investigate a cause of action. (Id.). Affirming the lower court’s decision, the supreme court held that the statute of limitations had run and that the wife’s claims were time-barred because the statute of limitations begins to run as soon as a reasonable person would have discovered the elements of the cause of action. (Id.).