The Iowa Court of Appeals has waded into the question of how a leap year impacts legal filing deadlines. Martha Lane filed a lawsuit against the Spencer Municipal Hospital on February 29th of 2012 for injuries suffered when she fell in a hospital bathroom on February 28th 2010.
The hospital asked that the suit be dismissed because the two-year time limit on filing had expired. Clay County District Court judge, Patrick Carr, originally sided with the hospital. But Carr then reversed his own ruling and said the filing was timely “by just a whisker” as the timing is counted in years, and not a particular number of days.
The Iowa Court of Appeals said Carr got it right the first time in throwing out the lawsuit, ruling that Lane had 730 days to file the suit, and did not get an extra day from the leap year.
Justice Mary Tabor did not agree with the majority. Her dissent says state law does not specifically say if 24 calendar months means February 28th to February 28th.
Tabor says the court should look to common law, which says that February 29th is an extension of February 28th when it comes to determining when a person born on the 29th legally becomes an adult.
Tabor also said the court should follow the “bedrock principle” regarding statute of limitations cases that says when there is the possibility for two interpretations of the limit, the interpretation that gives more time to the party bringing the lawsuit is preferred and applied.
See the full ruling here: Leap year ruling PDF