On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Monmouth county.
Antell and Long. The opinion of the court was delivered by Long, J.A.D.
This case presents the novel issue of whether New Jersey should honor the common law "coming of age" rule which provides that one reaches full age on the day prior to the anniversary of his or her birth.
Plaintiff Stephen Patterson was injured on October 7, 1977, when he participated in a gymnastics meet at Raritan High School. At the time of the accident Patterson was 15 years old and was a member of the Monmouth Regional High School (Monmouth) gymnastics team. He celebrated his eighteenth birthday on December 17, 1979. On December 17, 1981, Patterson filed a complaint against Monmouth, Michael Luccarelli (Monmouth's gymnastics coach), Raritan Township High School (Raritan) and Hazlet Township Board of Education (Hazlet). Raritan and Hazlet were later dismissed as defendants. As a result of procedural problems which occurred in the case, it was not scheduled for trial until 1986. On May 16, 1986, Monmouth
and Luccarelli moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that it was filed beyond the statute of limitations.
The New Jersey Tort Claims Act (N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq.) provides a two year statute of limitations for actions against a public entity. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8. This limitation is tolled when the injured party is a minor. In that event the statute prescribes that:
Nothing in this section shall prohibit an infant or incompetent person from commencing an action under this act within the time limitations contained herein, after his coming to or being of full age or sane mind.
This provision is similar to N.J.S.A. 2A:14-21 which tolls the general statute of limitations during minority:
If any person entitled to any of the actions or proceedings specified in sections 2A:14-1 to 2A:14-8 or sections 2A:14-16 to 2A:14-20 of this title or to a right or title of entry under section 2A:14-6 of this title is or shall be, at the time of any such cause of action or right or title accruing, under the age of 21 years, or insane, such person may commence such action or make such entry, within such time as limited by said sections, after his coming to or being of full age or sane mind.*fn1
See Reale v. Tp. of Wayne, 132 N.J. Super. 100 (Law Div.1975). Thus, Patterson was required to institute his cause of action within two years from the date he became eighteen. See Tyson v. Groze, 172 N.J. Super. 314 (App.Div.1980).
Under the uniform method of calculation applicable to legal matters in New Jersey the date of the act or event from which a designated period begins to run is not included in determining a time limitation. Poetz v. Mix, 7 N.J. 436, 445 (1951); R. 1:3-1. By this method the day of Patterson's birth (December 17, 1961) would not be counted in determining the anniversary of his birth. Accordingly, the first anniversary of Patterson's birth (and all future anniversaries) would have fallen on December 17, his birthday within the usual meaning ...