Case 3153/2011

STS 3153/2011
Download Judgment: English

The appellant claimed to have been infected by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) which the appellant received during his duties as dissection technician in the Forensic Anatomical Institute in Barcelona. He was diagnosed on July 4, 1997, took sick leave in August 19, 1999, and lodged a claim for financial liability of EUR 600,000, along with a lifelong pension and the disability pension on March 23, 2004.

The appellant’s claim was dismissed by several Department of Justice resolutions. On appeal, his claim was also dismissed by the Administrative Litigation Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia, which held that the claim was time-barred by the one-year limitation period.  The appellant appealed from that judgment.

With respect to when the one-year statute of limitations should begin, the Court noted the need to distinguish between permanent injuries, for which the extent of damage is known immediately, and continuing injuries, where the extent of the damage cannot be foreseen. With respect to cases related to such continuing injuries, the Court stated that the limitation period should start from the moment where the extent of the damages can be determined; however, this did not meant that the limitation period should be open indefinitely.

With respect to the appellant’s injury, the Court determined that the damages that the appellant had claimed were foreseeable prior to a year before he filed his 2004 suit; the claim was therefore time-barred.

It is also evident that there are cases related to health where the is no real recovery nor the possibility of deciding the extend of damages; whether is due to the nature itself of the disease, which may not allow foresee the it likely progression, or to the development of unforeseen and not specific damages, cases where this court has been accepting the possibility of the existence of a temporary claim, even if it has been made when the one-year limitation period, from the initial diagnosis, is over, to attend that impossibility of determining the exact extend of damages.” Page 3.

“ [T]he court has recognized that if the fact that gave rise to the liability inflicts damages whose extend or importance cannot be determined in the moment where the damaging fact takes place, the limitation period should then start to count from the moment where that determination is possible and accept that the damage can be claimed anytime as continuing for those unusual diseases whose progression is unforeseeable.” Page 4.