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Statutes of Limitation in Civil Lawsuits

What is a statute of limitation?

A statute of limitation is a type of law that prevents someone from starting a lawsuit after a certain period of time has passed. For example, say your car was totaled in an auto accident five years ago. Today you decide to file a lawsuit against the person who totaled your car to help pay for a new vehicle. Unfortunately, in Texas the statute of limitation for injury to personal property is two years. Because your lawsuit would be filed three years after the statute of limitation passed, you will be unable to file a lawsuit (assuming no exceptions to the limitation apply).

What is the policy behind statutes of limitation?

Statutes of limitation are imposed for the public interest. The statutes do so by encouraging diligent and timely prosecution of known claims as well as resolution of claims while supporting evidence is still available. To quote the U.S. Supreme Court, “Statutes of limitation … 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, and witnesses have disappeared.” See Order of R.R. Telegraphers v. Ry. Express Agency, 321 U.S. 342 (1944).

Lawsuits with a two-year statute of limitation

In Texas, a two-year statute of limitation is the norm for torts based on trespass to personal or property rights. For example, injury to personal property, conversion, personal injury, and wrongful death are all torts subject to the two-year statute of limitation. Each of these actions involves some type of trespass, be it to land, personal property, or to the body itself.

A short list of claims that are subject to this rule:

Lawsuits with a four-year statute of limitation

Texas also has a four-year statute of limitation for lawsuits involving contractual obligations. Contractual obligations include disputes over someone’s action (or inaction) relating to a contract, such as a refusal to perform an agreed-upon service. For example, breach of contract, certain debt collection suits, and breach of fiduciary duty claims are all subject to the four-year limitation.The four-year limitation also applies to certain transfers of real property. 

A short list of claims that are subject to this rule: