Davis, J., dissenting, joined by Chief Justice Maynard:
No rule of law could be more widely accepted and easily understood than that a statute of limitations imposes a bright line test as to when a cause of action has been timely filed. See, e.g., Cart v. Marcum, 188 W. Va. 241, 245, 423 S.E.2d 644, 648 (1992) (recognizing predictability that bright line rules like a strict statute of repose create). Correspondingly, this Court traditionally has been reluctant to find exceptions to the filing requirements imposed by a statute of limitations and has enforced such temporal limits as they are written. See, e.g., Humble Oil & Ref. Co. v. Lane, 152 W. Va. 578, 583, 165 S.E.2d 379, 383 (1969) (declaring that statutes of limitation are entitled to the same respect as other statutes, and ought not to be explained away (internal quotations and citations omitted)). That is, until now. Despite the simplistic facts of the case sub judice, my brethren nonetheless have failed to grasp the fundamental importance of such statutes of repose and have essentially chiseled out an exception where none otherwise would exist. I cannot agree with this blatant disregard for our prior precedent nor with an outcome that is clearly wrong. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent from the majority's Opinion in this case.
At issue in the case sub judice is the statute of limitations set forth in W. Va.
Code § 55-2-12 (1959) (Repl. Vol. 2000) pertaining to [p]ersonal actions not otherwise
provided for. It directs that
[e]very personal action for which no limitation is otherwise prescribed shall be brought: (a) Within two years next after the right to bring the same shall have accrued, if it be for damage to property; (b) within two years next after the right to bring the same shall have accrued if it be for damages for personal injuries; and (c) within one year next after the right to bring the same shall have accrued if it be for any other matter of such nature that, in case a party die, it could not have been brought at common law by or against his personal representative.
W. Va. Code § 55-2-12. As it pertains to Ms. Wright's cause of action, then, the statute clearly requires that her personal injury action be instituted within two years of the underlying motor vehicle accident. See id. The importance of identifying the precise period of time within which Ms. Wright was required to file her cause of action is the same principle that forms the foundation of our jurisprudence in this regard. Simply stated, statutes of limitations provide certainty for litigants and promote judicial economy. See, e.g., Syl. pt. 2, Perdue v. Hess, 199 W. Va. 299, 484 S.E.2d 182 (1997) (The ultimate purpose of statutes of limitations is to require the institution of a cause of action within a reasonable time.); Syl. pt. 4, Humble Oil & Ref. Co. v. Lane, 152 W. Va. 578, 165 S.E.2d 379 (1969) (Statutes of limitation are statutes of repose, the object of which is to compel the exercise of a right of action within a reasonable time.).
In other words,
[s]tatutes of limitation are statutes of repose and the legislative purpose is to compel the exercise of a right of action within a reasonable time; such statutes represent a statement of public policy with regard to the privilege to litigate and are a valid and constitutional exercise of the legislative power.
Syl. pt. 1, Stevens v. Saunders, 159 W. Va. 179, 220 S.E.2d 887 (1975), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Frantz v. Palmer, 211 W. Va. 188, 564 S.E.2d 398 (2001). Accord Wood v. Carpenter, 101 U.S. 135, 139, 11 Otto 135, 139, 25 L. Ed. 807, 808 (1879) (Statutes of limitation are vital to the welfare of society and are favored in the law. They are found and approved in all systems of enlightened jurisprudence. They promote repose by giving security and stability to human affairs. An important public policy lies at their foundation. They stimulate to activity and punish negligence.). It is for these reasons that we have strictly enforced the temporal requirements for filing causes of action in the courts of this State. By strictly enforcing statutes of limitations, we are both recognizing and adhering to the legislative intent underlying such provisions. Johnson v. Nedeff, 192 W. Va. 260, 265, 452 S.E.2d 63, 68 (1994).
Nevertheless, there is an exception to every rule, and statutes of limitations are
no different in this regard except for the fact that their exceptions, which are few, are very
limited both in their nature and in their scope. Correspondingly, we long have held that
[e]xceptions in statutes of limitation are strictly construed and the enumeration by the
Legislature of specific exceptions by implication excludes all others. Syl. pt. 3, Hoge v.
Blair, 105 W. Va. 29, 141 S.E. 444 (1928). Accord Johnson v. Nedeff, 192 W. Va. at 263,
452 S.E.2d at 66 ([S]tatutes of limitations are favored in the law and cannot be avoided
unless the party seeking to do so brings himself strictly within some exception. It has been
widely held that such exceptions are strictly construed and are not enlarged by the courts
upon considerations of apparent hardship. (internal quotations and citations omitted)). See
also Syl. pt. 4, Perdue v. Hess, 199 W. Va. 299, 484 S.E.2d 182 (refusing to recognize
excusable neglect exception to statute of limitations where such exception had not been
sanctioned by the Legislature). Unfortunately, Ms. Wright has not demonstrated that the late
filing of her complaint should be excused due to such an enumerated exception because no
such exception exists to justify her late filing.
(See footnote 1)
Insofar as she failed to file her cause of action
within the requisite time period, then, the circuit court correctly determined that her lawsuit
was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. With the majority's contrary decision on
this point, I strongly disagree.
What the majority fails to appreciate, however, is that the date on which the
circuit clerk filed Ms. Wright's complaint, be it the actual date it was received or on a later
date due to clerical error, simply does not matter if the complaint was not accompanied by
the civil case information statement. Both our procedural rules and our prior case law make
abundantly clear the fact that a clerk is without the authority to accept a complaint for filing
without the information statement. See W. Va. R. Civ. P. 3(b); Syl. pt. 5, Cable v. Hatfield,
202 W. Va. 638, 505 S.E.2d 701. Based upon the facts before this Court, the circuit clerk
could not accept Ms. Wright's complaint for filing until she had received the civil case
information statement. Insofar as the clerk received this document after the statute of
limitations had run, the circuit court correctly determined that Ms. Wright's cause of action
was time barred and properly dismissed her lawsuit. Nonetheless, the majority apparently
has determined this to be but a seemingly minor detail and has held otherwise. I do not
concur in this result and cannot condone such a blatant disregard for a critical procedural
requirement that is so plainly and clearly stated.
For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully dissent. I am authorized to state that
Chief Justice Maynard joins me in this dissenting opinion.