by Laura Meyer Gregory and Alexandra B. Howard, Sloane and Walsh, LLP

Virtually all states issued various emergency orders to address safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the first half of 2020, whether executive, legislative, or judicial in nature. In many states, these orders included court operations in an effort to protect the health and safety of the public. Some states’ orders tolled statutes of limitations for a certain period because courts in many states were essentially shut down and attorneys were suddenly working

In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court inter-preted the application of its own COVID-19 tolling order. In Shaw’s Super-markets, Inc. v. Melendez, the plaintiff filed suit in Massachusetts District Court against a grocery store chain alleging that on September 3, 2017, she was injured in a collision with a grocery cart caused by one of the store employees.67 Suit was filed on September 24, 2020, which would have been after the Massachusetts three-year tort statute of limitations expired on September 3, 2020, pursuant to G.L. c. 260, § 2A.68 The
plaintiff argued, however, that pursuant to Massachusetts’s COVID-19 tolling orders, her suit was timely even though the tort at issue occurred more than two years before the beginning of the pandemic and the issuance of the COVID-19 tolling orders.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had issued a series of orders stating that all civil statutes of limitations were tolled from March 17, 2020 through June 30, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.69 The Third…