Statute of Limitation versus Statute of Repose

Both statutes of limitations and statutes of repose are state laws that govern the time limits allowable under the law for a plaintiff to file a civil lawsuit. There are, however, a few key differences that every attorney should know.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is the time limit that a state places on a plaintiff’s right to seek a legal remedy by filing a lawsuit after suffering some type of harm. These time frames are generally expressed in years and the deadlines set often depend upon the type of case that is being filed in court. Of note, once the statute of limitations deadline has passed, the case is forever barred. There are two different types of statutes of limitations — those that apply to criminal cases and those that apply to civil cases. Most statutes of limitations apply to civil cases because most crimes, except for petty crimes or misdemeanors, do not have statutes of limitations.

Not only do statutes of limitations have two types, but claims are subject to two different statutes of limitations depending on the court where the case is filed. There are federal statutes of limitations for federal law-governed cases, as well as state statutes of limitations for state law-governed cases. Generally speaking, most state-imposed statutes of limitations range from one to six years. Common statutes of limitations in civil cases include breach of contract, debts, personal injury, libel or slander, property damage, as well as fraud and misrepresentation, to name a few.

Statutes of Repose

 Like a statute of limitations, which sets the time limit a plaintiff can file a lawsuit from the date of the incident, a statute of repose terminates certain legal rights if they are not acted on by a specific deadline. The deadline could be based on the passage of time or the occurrence of a specific event that itself does not cause someone harm or does not give rise to a lawsuit. Generally, statutes of repose apply to specific types of cases that are injury-related. Common cases in which statutes of repose apply include medical malpractice, construction defects, and product liability.

Know Your Deadlines

 If you are handling a lawsuit for a client, be sure to make yourself aware of statutes of limitations and statutes that apply to the case. Each state has its own statutes, so legal research is key.