U.S. Court of Appeals Reverses Dismissal of Case Involving Electronic Filing Before the Running of the Statute of Limitations Deadline

In a civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, Danny Farley hired an attorney who began the process of filing the complaint in the Southern District of Illinois in East St. Louis, Ill. The local rules in the district require that documents be filed electronically through the CM/ECF system. Attorneys must use this system to file documents unless they have received a special exemption.

Under the rules in place at the time, e-filers could not open a new case in CM/ECF on their own. Rather, they had to submit civil cases by e-mail in PDF form to the proper divisional mailbox. Upon receipt, the division clerk would open a new case in the CM/ECF system and inform the attorney that they could proceed in filing further documents.

On March 8, 2011 at 4:15 p.m., an assistant to Farley’s attorney e-mailed the complaint and civil cover sheet to the proper e-mail address. The clerk’s office responded at 5:11 p.m. with a notice stating that a new civil case had been opened, but the complaint was not being filed with the clerk until it was transmitted to the CM/ECF system.

The assistant to the attorney attempted to upload the complaint the next business day, Monday, March 11, but complications arose with the processing of the electronic filing fee. The assistant was able to successfully upload the complaint, but not until Tuesday, March 12.

The problem for Farley was that the 2-year statute of limitations expired on March 11. The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit as untimely. The magistrate judge granted the motion. Farley appealed.

On appeal, Farley argued that the e-mail delivery of his complaint with the court’s clerk office was sufficient under the federal rules to commence the action and stop the running of the statute of limitations. The panel agreed with this argument. The court of appeals stated that the timeliness of an action based on federal-question jurisdiction turns on the date the action was commenced in accordance with Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The appeals panel determined that e-mailing the complaint to the court clerk’s office satisfied the delivery requirement of Rule 3.

The panel stated that litigants were not excused from following local filing rules, but that because Farley had promptly come into compliance with the local requirements, his complaint was timely. Therefore, the district court’s dismissal of the case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

Danny Farley v. Jacob Koepp, et al., No. 14-1695 (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Cir. June 8, 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling federal litigation matters, car accident cases, medical negligence cases, hospital negligent cases, birth trauma injury cases and truck accident cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 38 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Maywood, Bridgeview, Morton Grove, Niles, Bedford Park, Blue Island, Grayslake, Round Lake Beach, Des Plaines and LaGrange, Ill.

Related blog posts:

Failures by Franchisee in Making Petroleum Payments Leads to Forfeiture Under Petroleum Marketing Practices Act

U.S. Appeals Court Enters Preliminary Injunction Where Consumers Would be Confused by Similar Tradenames

Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim was Proper Where Plaintiff Chose Not to Allege Details of Fraud Conspiracy in Complaint