A federal appeals court has reversed its own decision and affirmed a $54.6 million judgment awarded to three immigrants from El Salvador who claimed that members of that country’s military kidnapped and tortured them.

A West Palm Beach jury awarded the money in July 2002, but the award hinged on a key ruling, made by U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, that a 10-year statute of limitations for filing claims such as those alleged in the case could be extended if the defendants were somehow prevented or discouraged from filing within the required 10-year period. Such an extension is referred to as “equitable tolling.” Hurley held that the 10-year statute of limitations should begin in 1992, when El Salvador’s civil war ended in a peace agreement.

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