New York Governor Suspends Statute of Limitations
Recently, the New York legislature vested the state’s executive branch with unilateral power to change or suspend state law so long as it is done in furtherance of New York’s response to the Covid-19 coronavirus. See, Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law. For example, Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered school closings, the shuttering of non-essential businesses, and shelter-in-place restrictions.
Effective March 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo ordered the suspension of any specific time limit to file or commence any legal action, motion, notice or other proceeding through April 19, 2020. This Executive Order applies to all proceedings: probate, civil, criminal, and family. New York’s Commissioner of Taxation and Finance is now vested with the authority to abate late filing and payment penalties for a period of 60 days for taxpayers who are required to file returns and remit sales and use taxes for the sales tax quarterly period that ended February 29, 2020. In addition—for a period of 90 days—commercial and residential landlords cannot enforce evictions, and foreclosures shall cease.
To be sure, the tolling of the statute of limitations occurs routinely in certain situations, for example, when a party is a minor or discovery of the civil wrong is not learned of until later (e.g., the doctor left a sponge in the patient). By suspending the statute of limitations, in all situations, New York has effectively tolled all litigation in the state. The proverbial clock has stopped running. For our practice area in New York, this Executive Order indefinitely extends statutory deadlines to foreclose an individual’s rights in a probate or trust administration or litigation, and, impairs existing contractual obligations (e.g., lease agreements that are presently being breached). Time will tell what the socioeconomic cost and effect will be of this Executive Order.
At this time, there is no parallel order in Florida. It remains to be seen whether Florida will follow New York’s leading in enacting a suspension of the statute of limitations and other analogous relief as part of its response to the Covid-19 coronavirus.