Civil lawsuits cover many different areas and each area has a different statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time frame within which a party can bring a lawsuit. So, for example, if you’ve been injured in some way, you have a fixed period of time to bring your complaint. You can’t wait ten years before suing over a problem. This makes sense as the closer to the occurrence the lawsuit begins the more likely people and records are still available to provide evidence. While there are circumstances that can pause or “toll” this timeframe, for the most part, you need to be proactive in bringing a claim. Often statute of limitations can be hotly contested and are not entirely clear cut, but some examples of limitations periods and complications are as follows:
- Contracts: Depending on whether or not your contract is in writing, you have up to four years or up to six years to bring an action. While businesses may retain records for longer than six years, you may find that processes and people change significantly enough that by the end of that time, it becomes hard to locate witnesses, recordkeepers, and even the files themselves. Further, human memory is not perfect and, especially for contracts that were not memorialized in written form, asking someone to remember the details after four years will likely result in much uncertainty. Where there may be extenuating circumstances or other claims, the limitations periods even for contracts may not be clear cut.
- Fraud: The statute of limitations on fraud runs the later of three years from the time of the fraudulent action or one year from the time when the other party discovers the facts concerning the mistake or fraud. Case law is full of details on how to determine whether and when fraud is discovered or should have been discovered by a certain period of time as it often occurs that all the information is there, but often no one is looking until a staff member or accountant change causes the records to be reviewed and the problem comes to light. This makes the period on fraud particularly unique and one that creates complications even for lawyers.
- Product Liability: The liability for products extends for two years, again from when the defect is discovered or through the exercise of due diligence should have been discovered. However, depending on other possible claims based on various actions or negligence, this limitations period may be extended. Again, it will depend highly on the facts in a given circumstances how the limitations period may be applied.
- Slander and Libel: Often more clear cut, and because slander is based wholly on the spoken word of one party against another, the statute of limitations to bring an action is a short one year. A published false statement, or libel, also has a one-year statute of limitations. That said, depending on other circumstances, such as possible business relationships, even these periods may be more complicated due to possible other claims and extenuating circumstances.
Regardless of what claims you may believe you have, it is imperative to seek competent legal counsel to determine the time period in which you have to initiate an action. Similarly, if you have been sued and you believe that the suit is too late, you need to seek competent legal counsel to help you understand the limitations periods applicable to the various claims asserted against you. If you or your business is needs to initiate or is involved in civil or business litigation, the team from Dunn Law Firm is here to help. To discuss your case and help you understand the applicable statute of limitations, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 and set up a free consultation today.