We're going to talk about the idea of a statute of limitations. We're going to look at a breach of contract statute of limitations to show you why it's important to know what they are in your local state. So a statute of limitations is essentially a defense against a lawsuit. And what it says is if somebody sues you, in this case, let's say for breach of contract but the breach of contract happened 12 years ago, in all the states in the United States, unless there's a very small exception, that lawsuit is brought to late and the defense means that the court can dismiss that lawsuit for a statute of limitations violation.

Now the key in figuring this out is you need to understand when does the statute of limitations start? And that's why you want to make sure you're working with professionals work with an attorney so you can determine when that statute of limitations starts running and what the end date is. If you're dealing with a government entity, the statute of limitation may actually be different. They may have shorter time periods. And they may require that you actually give them a certain type of notice to let them know that you may be bringing the lawsuit. You also need to look to see if the statute of limitations has been tolled. There's a reason why the statute limitations stopped running at some point.

If we look at the last couple of years, many states actually use this due to the COVID pandemic when courts were closed and cases couldn't proceed. They told the statute of limitations on certain types of actions, giving the people more time to file their lawsuits. So let's look at a breach of contract and see why it's so important that you know what state you're in and what the statute of limitations is. I was actually very interested in putting together this video. I pulled up online all the different statutes of limitations for breach of contract across the United States. And I was pretty surprised.

  • If you're in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, DC, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, or South Carolina, the statute of limitations for breach of contract is only three years. Now that may not seem like a short period, but when you look at a lot of the other states and see how long it can take for things to happen, then you have to find an attorney and bring a lawsuit that three year period can be shorter than you think it is.
  • In all the states I'm admitted to practice, we have a six-year statute of limitations for contract actions. So that's in Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey. So for me, it's pretty simple. When people come to me and say I'm in one of those four states. There's been a breach of contract. What's the statute of limitations? I'm pretty comfortable knowing that we're looking at a six-year statute of limitations and let's start looking at the situation to figure out when did that statute start running?
  • On the other end of the spectrum, I didn't even know there's actually a handful of states that give you 10 years as a statute of limitations on your breach of contract. So if you're in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, if you're in Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming, any of those states have a 10-year statute of limitations for breach of contract. That means that if you were in a contract with somebody, and it ended and you thought everything was fine, you may not truly be in the clear for 10 years, you could still be sued up to 10 years later for a breach of contract action.

So that's why it's important that you understand, first of all, what the statute of limitations is in the state where you're in. This is also another good reason why you need to understand what your contract says. If your contract says that this contract is governed by the law of Colorado, then you've got a three-year statute of limitations. However, if that contract says it's governed by the laws of Louisiana, you're looking at 10 years. It's important for you to know this difference and know where you are and what those time periods are that you're dealing with.

If you have more questions on the statute of limitations, or you're in a lawsuit or contemplating one that may have a statute of limitations issue, you can set up a Legal Strategy Session, a 15 or 20-minute phone call where we can go through your current situation, and let's plan out some options and next steps for you so that you know what the statute of limitations is for your situation. And to make sure you're not going to miss it and have your case dismissed because you waited too long.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.