State Statute of Limitations for a Breach of Contract Action

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 What is a Statute of Limitation?

Statutes of limitations are laws that limit how long an individual has to file certain kinds of lawsuits. An example of how a statute of limitations works can be found by looking at New York’s statute of limitations for intentional infliction of emotional distress. In New York, the law permits a person to file a lawsuit against an individual against another person who has deliberately caused emotional suffering.

The statute of limitations for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim in New York is one year. This means a person seeking to file a lawsuit has one year, from the date the words or actions comprising the emotional suffering took place, to file a lawsuit.

If the person files the lawsuit after that year passes, then a defendant can raise a defense that the statute of limitations has passed. If a defendant raises this defense, then a court may dismiss the lawsuit.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for a Breach of Contract Action?

There are statutes of limitation for breach of contract lawsuits. The statute of limitations for a breach of contract action begins to “run” on the date that the contract at issue was allegedly breached.

Breach of contract actions may have different statutes of limitations. For example, there may be a statute of limitations for breach of an oral contract and a separate statute of limitations for breach of a written contract.

Do States Have Their Own Statute of Limitations?

Each state has its own statutes of limitations for both crimes and civil wrongs (torts). State criminal statutes of limitations require that the government prosecute individuals accused of a crime within a certain time frame of the commission of the crime. For very serious offenses, such as first-degree murder, a state may have no statute of limitations.

This means the government may bring charges at any time. State statutes for civil offenses cover intentional offenses (such as civil assault and battery), negligence, and other offenses for which a civil action must be filed.

State statutes of limitations are often similar. For example, the statute of limitations in both New York and in Georgia for defamation (libel or slander) is one year from when the libel or slander occurred. Sometimes, statutes of limitation can differ significantly. For example, in New York, the statute of limitations for breach of an oral contract is six years. However, in California, the statute of limitations for breach of an oral contract is only two years.

Individuals who contemplate filing a lawsuit should consult an attorney to determine the applicable statute of limitations for the lawsuit. Timely filing of a lawsuit ensures a case will not be dismissed on the ground that Plaintiff waited “too long” to file.

Is There a Way to Get Around the Statute of Limitations?

Breach of contract statutes of limitations can be modified under certain circumstances. Many state laws allow for “tolling” (stopping of) the statute of limitations for certain reasons. These reasons include, for example, a party’s physical or mental incapacity. If a party becomes physically or mentally incapacitated, then a court may “toll” (stop) the running of the statute of limitations during the period of incapacity.

For example, a breach of contract statute of limitations may require a lawsuit to be brought within 6 years of the date of breach. After two of the six years have passed, the plaintiff becomes injured in a car accident and is unable to move. This condition lasts for an entire year. In such circumstances, a court may “toll” the statute of limitations by suspending the statute of limitations from running for that year.

When the plaintiff has recovered, one year (the length of the disability) is added to the date on which the statute of limitations otherwise would have run. Certain statutes may also be tolled on account of minority (underage). In some instances, a court will permit tolling of a lawsuit against a minor until that minor reaches adulthood.

Some contracts permit the parties to shorten the length of the statute of limitations for bringing a breach of contract suit. Courts will usually uphold the provision that shortens the length of the statute of limitation, unless there is evidence that a party did not understand the nature of the right they were giving up. A court may not hold this provision if the statute agreed to is so short that it does not give a would-be plaintiff adequate time to prepare and file a lawsuit within the shortened period.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Dealing with Statute of Limitations for a Breach of Contract?

To determine what the statute of limitations is for a breach of contract lawsuit, you should contact a contract attorney. An experienced contract attorney near you can advise you as to what the deadline is for filing a lawsuit. The attorney can also advise as to the possibility, if any, of having the deadline modified.


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