The Second Department determined plaintiff’s cause of action for fraud was time-barred because it accrued when she signed the allegedly fraudulent document without reading it. The court explained the two statutes of limitations which apply to fraud and the related burdens of proof in a motion to dismiss:
An action alleging fraud must be commenced within “the greater of six years from the date the cause of action accrued or two years from the time the plaintiff or the person under whom the plaintiff claims discovered the fraud, or could with reasonable diligence have discovered it” (CPLR 213; see CPLR 203[g]…). “On a motion to dismiss a complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5) on statute of limitations grounds, the moving defendant must establish, prima facie, that the time in which to commence the action has expired” … . “The burden then shifts to the plaintiff to raise a question of fact as to whether the statute of limitations is tolled or is otherwise inapplicable, or whether the plaintiff actually commenced the action within the applicable limitations period”… .
Where a plaintiff relies upon the two-year discovery exception to the six-year limitations period, ” [t]he burden of establishing that the fraud could not have been discovered prior to the two-year period before the commencement of the action rests on the plaintiff who seeks the benefit of the exception'” * * * … [A]lthough “mere suspicion” will not substitute for knowledge of the fraudulent act …, a plaintiff may not ” shut his [or her] eyes to facts which call for investigation … .
Here, the gravamen of the plaintiff’s complaint is fraud in the factum, that she was induced to sign documents without being advised of their contents … . However, “[a] party who signs a document without any valid excuse for not having read it is conclusively bound’ by its terms” … . In this case, the plaintiff admitted that she neither read nor inquired about the contents of the documents upon which she relies to establish the fraud before she signed them, yet she failed to proffer any valid excuse for her failure to do so. Under these circumstances, the plaintiff is conclusively presumed to have agreed to the terms of those documents … and, accordingly, cannot establish that she lacked knowledge from which she could have discovered the alleged fraud with reasonable diligence … . Cannariato v Cannariato, 2016 NY Slip Op 00650, 2nd Dept 2-3-16
FRAUD (TWO STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS EXPLAINED)/FRAUD (SIGNING DOCUMENT WITHOUT READING IT)/CONTRACT LAW (SIGNING DOCUMENT WITHOUT READING CONSTITUTES AGREEMENT)/CIVIL PROCEDURE (PROOF BURDENS RE: MOTION TO DISMISS FRAUD CAUSE OF ACTION AS TIME-BARRED)/STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS (FRAUD)