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Gomez v. Walker.

2023 COA 65. No. 22CA0463. Limitation of Actions—General Limitation of Actions—More Recent Specific Statute—Computation of Time.

July 13, 2023

Gomez and Walker were involved in a car crash on June 15, 2016. Gomez filed a complaint against Walker on June 17, 2019, alleging that he negligently collided with her and caused her injuries. Walker moved to dismiss the complaint under CRCP 12(b)(5) because it was filed two days after the three-year statute of limitations period required by CRS § 13-80-101(1)(n)(I). The district court initially denied Walker’s motion, concluding that because June 15, 2019, fell on a Saturday, the court should accept the June 17 filing because that was the next business day that the court was open. However, a court of appeals division subsequently published Morin v. ISS Facility Services, Inc., 2021 COA 55, which held under similar facts that CRCP 6(a)(1)—which extends a time period when the period ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday—does not extend a statutory limitations period that expired on a weekend. Consequently, Walker filed a “renewed motion to dismiss.” Relying on Morin, the district court granted the renewed motion and dismissed Gomez’s claims as untimely. Gomez moved for reconsideration, which the district court denied. Walker moved for, and was granted, attorney fees and costs.

On appeal, Gomez argued that CRS § 2-4-108(2) extended the applicable statute of limitations and that Morin did not address that statute. Section 2-4-108(2) generally acts to extend statutory time periods that expire on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. Section 2-4-108(2) is a general provision because it facially applies to all time periods described by statute. However, CRS § 2-4-108(2) conflicts with CRS § 13-80-101(1), which is a more recent statute providing that certain tort actions, including those arising from car accidents, must be brought “within three years after the cause of action accrues, and not thereafter.” Section 13-80-101 acts as an exception to the general rule that statutory time periods are extended when they expire on a weekend or legal holiday. Accordingly, CRS § 2-4-108(2) does not extend the statute of limitations established by CRS § 13-80-101 to the next business day when the limitations period ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.

Gomez also argued that equitable principles should apply to extend the statute of limitations period in this case. She maintained that she should be entitled to rely on her good faith, erroneous interpretation of the interplay between CRS §§ 2-4-108(2) and 13-80-101(1). However, a party’s mistaken legal analysis is not outside of the party’s control, nor does it render compliance with the statutory period impossible. Accordingly, Gomez’s claim is time-barred.

Gomez further contended that the district court erred by construing Walker’s renewed motion to dismiss as one to reconsider its original order denying dismissal under Rule 12(b)(5) rather than as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). The district court construed Walker’s renewed motion as one to “reconsider” its prior ruling. However, motions to reconsider interlocutory orders must be filed within 14 days of the date of the order unless the filing party shows good cause. Walker filed his renewed motion more than a year after the court’s order dismissing his original motion, and the district court did not find good cause for the late filing. The arguments raised in Walker’s renewed motion were properly cognizable under Rule 12(c) because the material facts relating to the statute of limitations are apparent on the face of the pleadings and are undisputed, and the issue may be decided as a matter of law. Therefore, the district court erred by construing Walker’s motion as a motion to reconsider and should instead have characterized it as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c).

Gomez also asserted that (1) the district court lacked jurisdiction to award attorney fees and costs after dismissing the complaint on statute of limitations grounds; and (2) even if the court had jurisdiction, it abused its discretion by entering an unreasonable costs award. However, in civil actions, an expired statute of limitations does not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction, and the record does not show that the costs awarded are facially unreasonable or that the district court abused its discretion. Accordingly, the district court did not err in awarding Walker costs. But because the court should have construed Walker’s renewed motion to dismiss as one under Rule 12(c) rather than under Rule 12(b), it erred by awarding attorney fees to Walker under CRS § 13-17-201.

Walker asserted that he is entitled to appellate attorney fees because he successfully defended a Rule 12(b) dismissal order. But as stated above, Walker’s renewed motion to dismiss should have been construed as a motion for judgment on the pleadings, so he is not entitled to such fees.

The judgment was affirmed. The order for costs and fees was affirmed in part and vacated in part.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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