Friday, November 18, 2011

Federal Express’ Six-Month Limitation on Statutes of Limitations in Employment Disputes Approved

In Wilkerson v. Federal Express, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59708 (D. Md. June 2, 2011), Judge Alexander Williams approved a contractual limitation clause which provided that any claim against Federal Express had to be brought within the earlier of the time prescribed by law or six months.  The Court found, as previously the Maryland Court of Special Appeals had in Coll. of Notre Dame of Md., Inc. v. Morabito Consultants, Inc., 752 A.2d 265 (2000), that “there is nothing in the policy or object of such statutes which forbids the parties to an agreement to provide a shorter period, provided the time is not unreasonably short.”  The Wilkerson Court adopted the criteria used by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in assessing the reasonableness of a provision shortening statutes of limitations.  The three criteria being:
  1. There is no controlling statute to the contrary
  2. It is reasonable; and
  3. It is not subject to other defenses such as fraud, duress, or misrepresentation.
Morabito, 752 A.2d at 174.  The Court found that, were it not for the contractual limitation, the statute of limitations would be three years in the case before it.  Nonetheless, the Court found the six-month time period to be reasonable, indicating that the clause was written in bold, capitalized letters; was not hidden in any way; and that there were no apparent statutes preventing such a shortening of the statute of limitations.  

The Wilkinson opinion appears to be consistent with the line of authorities about which we previously blogged