Bailey v. West

160 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 1998)



The doctrine of equitable tolling is available in suits against the United States, unless Congress has expressed its intent to the contrary. 


Claimant Appellant veteran's appeal for a service connection to his lung disorder was denied by the Board of Veterans' Affairs. He attempted to file an appeal, without an attorney, 117 days after he received the board's decision, however, his paperwork was never filed by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The lower court dismissed his appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that veteran was not entitled to any equitable considerations to justify a judicial extension of the filing deadline. On review, the court reversed the decision and remanded for further proceedings.


Is there good reason to believe that Congress did not want the equitable tolling doctrine to apply in a suit against the United States? 




The court reverse holding the statute which governed his appeal had specified a time limitation for review on appeal and that it was within the rebuttable presumption in favor of equitable tolling absent language therein to the contrary. The court found that there was no reason to restrict application of equitable tolling to § 7266(a) and there was no reason to believe that Congress wanted to bar the application of the equitable tolling doctrine to § 7266(a). Thus, veteran was entitled to an extension of his filing deadline.

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