Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Statute of Limitations Definition:

A procedural rule which limits the time in which a party may bring an action for a right which has already accrued.

Related Terms: Statute of Repose, Limitations or Statute of Limitations

See, also, limitations and statute of repose.

Justice Matz of the United States District Court (California) wrote, in Garamendi v. SDI Vendome:

"Statute of limitations is the collective term commonly applied to a great number of acts, or parts of acts, that prescribe the periods beyond which' a plaintiff may not bring a cause of action.

"Statutes of limitations protect defendants from the stale claims of dilatory plaintiffs and encourage plaintiffs to assert fresh claims against defendants in a diligent fashion.

"Under the statute of limitations, a plaintiff must bring a cause of action within the limitations period applicable thereto after accrual of the cause of action.

"A cause of action ordinarily accrues when it is complete with all of its elements."

In Burlington Northern v Poole, Justice Prado of the United States Court of Appeals used these words in the court's opinion and especially to make the traditional distinction between the statute of limitation and the statute of repose:

"A statute of limitations extinguishes the right to prosecute an accrued cause of action after a period of time. It cuts off the remedy.

"A statute of repose limits the time during which a cause of action can arise and usually runs from an act of a defendant. It abolishes the cause of action after the passage of time even though the cause of action may not have yet accrued.

"Typically, a statute of limitations for an action sounding in tort starts to run on the date of the plaintiff's legal injury. When an injury is inherently undiscoverable, however, states often use the discovery rule to toll the running of the limitations period until the plaintiff "discovers, or in exercising reasonable diligence should have discovered, facts that indicate he has been injured."

In Trax-Fax Inc., Justice Blackburn of the Court of Appeals of Georgia adopted these words:

"A statute of limitation is a procedural rule limiting the time in which a party may bring an action for a right which has already accrued. A statute of ultimate repose delineates a time period in which a right may accrue. If the injury occurs outside that period, it is not actionable.

"Furthermore, a statute of repose is also distinct from a statute of limitation in that a statute of repose stands as an unyielding barrier to a plaintiff's right of action. The statute of repose is absolute; the bar of the statute of limitation is contingent. The statute of repose destroys the previously existing rights so that, on the expiration of the statutory period, the cause of action no longer exists."

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