When Does the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Begin and Can It Be Tolled by the Discovery Rule ?
In Anthony v. Koppers Company, 496 Pa. 119, 436 A.2d 181 (1981), our Supreme Court held, in a plurality opinion, that the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action could not be tolled by the discovery rule. the Anthony court reasoned:
Statutory references to the occurrence of an "injury" or the accrual of a "cause of action" are subject to judicial interpretation as to the degree of knowledge a plaintiff must possess before the statute will start to run.
In contrast, the requirement that a wrongful death action be brought within a certain period of time after a definitely established event, - "death" - leaves no room for construction. 496 Pa. at 124, 436 A.2d at 184.
The Anthony court further held that the discovery rule did not apply to survival actions because "survival statutes do not create a new cause of action; they simply permit a personal representative to enforce a cause of action which had already accrued to the deceased before his death." Anthony, 496 Pa. at 125, 436 A.2d at 185.
Therefore, by definition, the statute of limitations to bring a survival action must begin to run, at the latest, at death. Id.