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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
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Posted: March 8, 2017

Continuing Wrong Doctrine Does Not Save Plaintiff’s Claims Against Credit Card Issuer

On February 23, 2017, the First Department issued a decision in Henry v. Bank of America, 2017 NY Slip Op. 01436, holding that the continuing wrong doctrine did not save a plaintiff’s untimely claims, explaining:

Plaintiff’s reliance on the continuing wrong doctrine to toll the limitations periods is misplaced. The continuous wrong doctrine is an exception to the general rule that the statute of limitations runs from the time of the breach though no damage occurs until later. The doctrine is usually employed where there is a series of continuing wrongs and serves to toll the running of a period of limitations to the date of the commission of the last wrongful act. Where applicable, the doctrine will save all claims for recovery of damages but only to the extent of wrongs committed within the applicable statute of limitations.

The doctrine may only be predicated on continuing unlawful acts and not on the continuing effects of earlier unlawful conduct. The distinction is between a single wrong that has continuing effects and a series of independent, distinct wrongs. The doctrine is inapplicable where there is one tortious act complained of since the cause of action accrues in those cases at the time that the wrongful act first injured plaintiff and it does not change as a result of continuing consequential damages. In contract actions, the doctrine is applied to extend the statute of limitations when the contract imposes a continuing duty on the breaching party. Thus, where a plaintiff asserts a single breach — with damages increasing as the breach continued — the continuing wrong theory does not apply.

Here, the alleged wrongs are the enrollment of plaintiff in the CPP and PAS programs in March 2001 and 2007, respectively, and there was no breach of a recurring duty. The monthly billings demanding payment of CPP and PAS fees, both before and after plaintiff closed his account, represent the consequences of those wrongful acts in the form of continuing damages, not the wrongs themselves, and do not qualify for application of the continuous wrong doctrine.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis added).

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