“Statute of Limitations” – and related definitions

Discovery Rule:

(1916) Civil procedure. The rule that a limitations period does not begin to run until the plaintiff discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) the injury giving rise to the claim. * The discovery rule usually applies to injuries that are inherently difficult to detect, such as those resulting from medical malpractice. See STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS; ACCRUAL RULE. Cf. OCCURRENCE RULE. [1]

Definition of Statute of Limitations:

“(18c) 1. A law that bars claims after a specified period; specifically , a statute establishing a time limit for suing in a civil case, based on the date when the claim accrued (as when the injury occurred or was discovered). The purpose of such a statute is to require diligent prosecution of known claims, thereby providing finality & predictability in legal affairs & ensuring that claims will be resolved while evidence is reasonably available & fresh. — Also termed nonclaim statute, limitations period.

     Excerpt from Order of r. R. Telegraphers v. Railway Express Agency (1944):

     “Statutes of limitations, like the equitable doctrine of laches, in their conclusive effects are designed to promote justice by preventing surprises through the revival of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost, memories have faded, & witnesses have disappeared.” [2]

“2. A statute establishing a time limit for prosecuting a crime, based on the date when the offense occurred. — Abbr. S/L; SOL.”

      Excerpt from Toussie v. United States (1970):

     “The purpose of a statute of limitations is to limit exposure to criminal prosecution to a certain fixed period of time following the occurrence of those acts the legislature has decided to punish by criminal sanctions. Such a limitation is designed to protect individuals from having to defend themselves against charges when the basic facts have become obscured by the passage of time
& to minimize the danger of official punishment because of acts in the far distance past. Such a time limit may also have the salutary effect of encouraging law enforcement officials promptly to investigate suspected criminal activity. [3]

Definition of Limitation:

(14C) 1. The act of limiting; the quality, state, or condition of being limited. 2. A
restriction. 3. A statutory period after which a s lawsuit or prosecution cannot be brought in court. — Also termed limitations period; limitation period; limitation of action. 4. PropertyThe restriction of the extent of an estate; the creation by deed or devise of a lesser estate out of a fee simple.”

Definition of Laches:

[Law French “remissness; slackness”] (14c) 1. Unreasonable delay in pursuing a right or
claim — almost always are equitable one — in a way that prejudices the party against whom relief is sought. — Also termed sleeping on rights. 2. The equitable doctrine by which a court denies relief to a claimant who has unreasonably delayed in asserting the claim, when that delay has prejudiced the party against whom relief is sought.”

     Excerpt from William F. Walsh’s A Treatise on Equity:

     “The doctrine of laches… is an instance of the exercise of the reserved power of equity to withhold relief otherwise regularly given where in the particular case the granting of such relief would be unfair or unjust.” [4]

Definition of Statute of Repose:

(18c) 1. A statute barring any suit that is brought after a specified time since the defendant acted (such as by designing or manufacturing a product), even if this period ends before the plaintiff has suffered a resulting injury.”

     Excerpt from 54 C.J.S.’ Limitations of Actions:

     “A statute of repose… limits the time within which an action may be brought & is not related to the accrual of any cause of action; the injury need not have occurred, much less have been discovered.  Unlike an ordinary statute of limitations which begins running upon accrual of the claim, the period contained in a statute of repose begins when a specific event occurs, regardless of whether a cause of action has accrued or whether any injury has resulted.” [5]


[1]: All definitions from: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Order of r. R. Telegraphers v. Railway Express Agency, 321 348-49, 64 S.Ct. 582, 586 (1944)

[3]: Toussle v. U.S. 397 U.S. 112, 90 S.Ct. 858 (1970)

[4]: William F. Walsh, A Treatise on Equity 472 (1930)

[5]: 54 C.J.S. Limitations of Actions § 4, at 20-21 (1987)


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