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WA Repeals Cons Tolling Statute

The 53rd Washington Legislature unanimously amended RCW 4.16.190 to repeal the provision which tolled the statute of limitations for prisoners serving less than natural life terms. The new law went into effect on July 1, 1993. The statute of limitations in Washington State for civil rights and personal injury claims is set by RCW 4.16.080(2) at three years. Until now, that statute of limitations was tolled while a person was in prison. For example, a person had three years from the time they were released from state custody to file suit for any civil rights violations they suffered while in prison.

With the repeal of the tolling statute Washington prisoners will only have three years from the time the incident occurs in which to file suit. The reasoning behind having such a tolling statute was that prisoners were unlikely to sue prison officials while still in their custody and vulnerable to retaliation and that a free person was more likely to be able to find and retain counsel to represent them than a prisoner was.

With the repeal of the tolling statute Washington prisoners will now have to file suit within three years after an incident occurs. For incidents that occurred prior to July 1, 1993, prisoners will have until July 1, 1996, in which to file suit.

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