Langan v. United States


United States Court of Federal Claims, No. 11-886T

Filed June 28, 2013

The Estate of Eleanor F. Langan mailed a Complaint for refund of estate tax to the United States Court of Federal Claims at 11 p.m. on the night before the 2-year refund statute of limitations expired. The Complaint was received by the Court after expiration of the statute. The Court held that a timely mailing is not per se a timely filing of a Complaint with the Court; more must be shown before a "presumption of timely filing" will be found.

By waiting until the last minute, and despite the verbal assurances of the U.S. Postal clerk that the Complaint would be delivered to the Court during the next day, the Estate failed to take action within sufficient time before the due date to raise a "presumption of timely filing" that would have overcome the consequences of the untimely receipt. The Court noted,inter alia, that the applicant could have driven to Washington the next day to ensure a timely receipt. The applicant should otherwise have begun the process of mailing the Complaint several days before the deadline so that it's timely receipt by the Court could reasonably have been expected.

There is a presumption of arrival in due course of the mails within the limitation period that will overcome the late filing date stamped on a Complaint, but only if the plaintiff meets the burden of proof of establishing that he did everything within prudent behavior to ensure timely receipt, and then only if there is no clear, unambiguous, uncontradicted, convincing evidence to the contrary. All extrinsic evidence offered by the parties will be considered.

In the Estate of Langan's case, there was documentary evidence from the United States Postal Service website, as well as other documentation, that postal delivery of the Complaint to the Court was not guaranteed until one day after the statute of limitations expired. The Complaint was therefore not filed timely and the Court lacked jurisdiction to consider its merits.