LOCATION: Ashtabula County
DOCKET NO.: 94-3
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Ohio Supreme Court
CITATION: 514 US 749 (1995)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1995
DECIDED: May 15, 1995
Timothy B. Dyk - on behalf of the Respondent
William E. Riedel - on behalf of the Petitioners
Facts of the case
A collision between a car and a truck occurred in Ohio. More than three years later, Carol Hyde, a passenger in the car, sued the truck driver and his employer for negligence in the Court of Common Pleas. Ohio had a two-year statute of limitations for such actions, but because the truck driver and his employer were from out of state, a special provision tolled the running of the statute of limitations. 10 months after this suit began, the Supreme Court decided in Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988) that the tolling provision placed an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. The Court of Common Pleas applied Bendix and dismissed Hyde's suit as untimely. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal, but the Ohio Supreme Court reversed on the ground that Bendix could not be retroactively applied to claims that commenced prior to that decision.
Can Ohio apply its unconstitutional tolling provision to claims that accrued prior to Bendix?
Media for Reynoldsville Casket Company v. HydeAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1995 in Reynoldsville Casket Company v. Hyde
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 15, 1995 in Reynoldsville Casket Company v. Hyde
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion the court in number 94-3, Reynoldsville Casket Company v. Hyde will be announced by Justice Breyer.
Stephen G. Breyer:
Mrs. Hyde is the respondent in this case she is from Ohio.
She was in an automobile accident which involved the truck owned by a Pennsylvania company, it’s called Reynoldsville Casket.
She sued the company in Ohio more than three years after the accident and normally that would have been too late because the Ohio statute it is only two years.
But there was a special tolling provision in the Ohio Law which gave her more time to sue a company because it was out of state and while her suit was pending this court in a case called Bendix held that tolling provision was unconstitutional.
So Reynoldsville immediately came in and said you have to dismiss your suit.
The Supreme Court in a different case held that this tolling provision is unconstitutional.
While the Supreme Court of Ohio said, we don’t have to dismiss the suit because we’re not going to apply this Law to the people whose cases were pending at that time and we had to decide if they could do that and basically this court has held that if a new rule of constitutional law applies to the case in which the court announces it, it also applies to all pending cases.
That would seem to require a judgment for Reynoldsville and Mrs. Hyde argued rather complicated argument that really what was going on as they were applying the rule backwards but they just didn’t give Reynoldsville a remedy, and we in our opinion say well we don’t really see that as a distinction and we go through the various cases that she sights in support and we distinguish them and we ultimately come to the conclusion.
It’s not a distinction that Ohio has to apply our new rule retroactively, that Ohio has to apply the rule to her case and therefore Reynoldsville is entitled to judgment.
There is in fact as well Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Thomas joins and Justice Kennedy has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in which Justice O’Connor joins.