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Rotella v. Wood

Supreme Court of the United States

November 3, 1999, Argued ; February 23, 2000, Decided

No. 98-896

Opinion

 [*551]   [**1078]   [****6]   [***1053]  JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The commencement of petitioner's civil treble-damages action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was timely only if the so-called "injury and pattern discovery" rule governs  [**1079]  the start of the 4-year limitations period. We hold that it does not.

In February 1985, petitioner, Mark Rotella, was admitted to the Brookhaven Psychiatric Pavilion with a diagnosis of major depression. Rotella v. Pederson, 144 F.3d 892, 894 (CA5 1998). He was discharged in 1986. In 1994, Brookhaven's parent company and one of its directors pleaded guilty to charges of criminal fraud perpetrated through improper relationships and illegal agreements between the company and its doctors. Rotella learned of the plea agreement that same year, and in 1997 he filed a civil RICO claim against respondents, a group of doctors and related business entities, in Federal District Court. 1 

 [*552]   [****7]  ]

RICO, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968 (1994 ed. and Supp. III), makes it criminal "to conduct" an "enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity," 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), defined as behavior that violates certain other laws, either enumerated federal statutes or state laws addressing specified topics and bearing specified penalties, 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1) (Supp. III). "Pattern" is also a defined term requiring "at least two acts of racketeering activity . . . , the last of which occurred within ten years . . . after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity." 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5).

] RICO provides for civil actions (like this one) by which "any person injured in his business or property" by a RICO violation may seek treble damages and attorney's fees. 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c) (Supp. III). Rotella alleged such injury, in that respondents had conspired to admit, treat, and retain him at Brookhaven not for any medical reason but simply to maximize their profits. Respondents raised the statute of limitations as a defense and sought summary judgment on the ground that the [****8]  period for bringing the civil action had expired before Rotella sued.

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528 U.S. 549 *; 120 S. Ct. 1075 **; 145 L. Ed. 2d 1047 ***; 2000 U.S. LEXIS 1537 ****; 68 U.S.L.W. 4153; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 1357; 2000 Daily Journal DAR 1905; 2000 Colo. J. C.A.R. 952; 13 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 127

MARK ROTELLA, PETITIONER v. ANGELA M. WOOD, ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 147 F.3d 438, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

discovery, limitations period, discovery rule, Clayton Act, predicate act, racketeering, accrual, racketeering activity, ignorance, cause of action, malpractice, occurrence, analogy

Criminal Law & Procedure, Racketeering, Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act, Elements, Securities Law, RICO Actions, General Overview, Penalties, Antitrust & Trade Law, Private Actions, Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations, Remedies, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations