The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently reversed a longstanding precedent and held that claims under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act, Minn. Stat. § 181.932, are governed by a six-year statute of limitations instead of a two-year statute of limitations.
In Ford v. Minneapolis Public Schools, the issue before the court was whether the Plaintiff’s whistleblower claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. A13-1072 (Minn. Ct. App., Dec. 15, 2014). The court held that the two-year statute of limitations did not apply, overturning a prior decision in Larson v. New Richland Care Ctr., 538 N.W.2d 915, 921 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995).
The Ford court reasoned that a whistleblower claim was not an “other tort resulting in personal injury” governed by the two-year statute of limitations in Minn. Stat. § 541.07(1), but instead was a “liability created by statute” governed by the six-year statute of limitations in Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(2). To reach this result, the Ford court relied on a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision in Sipe v. STS Mfg., Inc., which held that “541.07(1) is limited to common law causes of action not created by statute.” 834 N.W.2d 683, 686 (Minn. 2013). The Ford court explained that “[t]he supreme court’s decision in Sipe essentially overrules this court’s reasoning in Larson.”
Takeaway: Unless appealed and overturned, the Ford decision means that plaintiffs now have six years to bring a claim for violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act instead of just two. Combined with the Minnesota legislature’s recent expansion of the Whistleblower Act, this decision yet again increases the difficulty for employers to defend against whistleblower claims.