Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Turnover Proceeding as Time Barred
June 23, 2016
A recent decision of the Kings County Surrogate’s Court demonstrates the importance of thoroughly analyzing all aspects of a statute of limitations defense prior to making a dismissal motion. In Matter of Coiro, 5/6/2016 NYLJ p.23, col. 2, the court denied such a motion, determining that an SCPA § 2104 turnover proceeding was timely. Notably, the parties disputed both the applicable limitations period and the date of the claim’s accrual. Side-stepping both those issues, the court determined that a statutory toll rendered the claim timely in any event.
Determining whether a claim has been timely asserted requires analysis of at least three factors – the applicable limitations period, the date of the claim’s accrual, and whether any toll applies. (I say “at least” three factors because, in an appropriate case, a court may determine other matter – such as whether a defendant/respondent is equitably estopped from asserting the statute of limitations, where specific actions by the defendant/respondent “somehow kept [the plaintiff] from timely bringing suit” [see Zumpano v Quinn, 6 NY3d 666, 674 (2006)].) Coiro involved all three factors.
Janet Coiro died on January 16, 2012. Some 19 months later, one of her daughters, the executor nominated in her last will and testament, offered the will for probate, receiving letters testamentary on December 18, 2013. On June 12, 2015, more than three years after the decedent’s death, the executor brought a turnover proceeding pursuant to SCPA § 2104, alleging that on the day after the decedent died, January 17, 2012, the respondent (the decedent’s son) submitted a power of attorney to the bank at which the decedent maintained several accounts, adding his name to those accounts. Allegedly, respondent also deposited a matured Treasury bill (of which the executor claimed to be the beneficiary) into one of the accounts, and later withdrew or transferred all the funds from the accounts. Respondent moved to dismiss the proceeding as time-barred.
The parties disputed the applicable limitations period. Respondent argued that the three-year period applicable to conversion claims governed, while the executor argued that respondent’s action in improperly adding his name to the decedent’s bank accounts after her death warranted application of the six-year limitations period applicable to fraud-based claims.
Petitioner also argued, alternatively, that even if the three-year “conversion” limitations period applied, the claim accrued not on the date on which the respondent added his name to the bank accounts, but on the date he transferred the balances thereof, to wit, May 17, 2013, and thus the proceeding was timely in any event.
While noting that discovery and turnover proceedings are usually subject to the three-year statute of limitations applicable to actions in replevin and conversion, i.e., CPLR 214(3), the court further noted that it was not required to decide whether that period or a six-year period applied. It also noted that it was not required to decide the date of accrual of the claim. The court determined that the proceeding was timely in any event, by reason of the toll provided in CPLR § 210(c).
Section 210(c) provides that “[i]n an action by an executor or administrator to recover personal property wrongfully taken after the death [of a decedent] and before the issuance of letters, . . . the time within which the action must be commenced shall be computed from the time the letters are issued or from three years after the death, whichever event first occurs.”
The court determined that the limitations period applicable to the claim asserted in the proceeding was tolled until December 18, 2013 (the earlier of the date of issuance of letters or three years from the date of death). The executor commenced the proceeding on June 12, 2015, less than three years after the end of the toll. Thus, even applying the shorter, three-year limitations period, the proceeding was timely.
When performing a statute of limitations analysis, care must be taken to determine whether a toll is applicable. Aside from the toll provided in CPLR 210(c), a practitioner should consider whether any other toll applies. Such tolls might include the “insanity” toll provided in CPLR § 208, or the “fiduciary toll” applied in cases such as 212 Inv. Corp. v Kaplan, 44 AD3d 332 (1st Dept 2007). Continuing undue influence or duress can also operate to toll a limitations period (see Pacchiana v Pacchiana, 94 AD2d 721 [2d Dept 1983]).
 The version of this decision that appears on lexis.com erroneously refers to this decision as emanating from the New York County Surrogate’s Court.
 The Court’s decision states that the proceeding was brought pursuant to section 2104; it was likely brought pursuant to section 2103.