Statutes of limitation are the laws that determine the length of time after an issue arises, during which time the person who has been damaged can try to recover money or other relief from the person who caused the damage. Usually, unless suing for violation of a specific federal law, Ohio law defines the appropriate statute of limitation.
Statutes of limitation are designed to ensure that disputes between people are brought while the facts at issue can still be identified, while witnesses are alive and relevant documents are less likely to be lost. Further, these laws allow society to have some certainty knowing that old arguments will not be brought up forever into the future.
Generally, the statute of time limitations for any particular action begins when the damage, harm, action or inaction took place. For example, the statute of limitations for civil trespass on real estate is four years. Therefore, the time period within which to sue someone for trespass on real property terminates four years after the trespass allegedly took place.
Sometimes, though, circumstances or other wrong acts (such as fraud) can conceal the damage. In certain instances, like those, the statute of limitations may not begin to be calculated until the damage is actually uncovered or reasonably able to be uncovered. Sometimes, too, the damage may be known, but the source of the damage is not identifiable. The time limitations are sometimes extended in these instances, and such extensions are often called “tolling” of the statute of limitations or considered to be relying upon the “discovery rule.”
Notably, the statute of limitation defines the time period within which the alleged wrongdoer can be sued. Writing a letter or making a threat of a lawsuit does not extend the time period set forth in the appropriate statute of limitation, except for some medical malpractice cases.
Nonetheless, most statutes of limitation in civil cases can be extended through an agreement signed by the alleged wrongdoer. This sometimes allows parties extra time to try to resolve the dispute without having to file an actual lawsuit.
If a defendant is sued and wants to assert expiration of the statute of limitations to stop the lawsuit, that argument must be presented at the very beginning of the case, or it will be waived by that defendant.
Generally, malpractice by professionals other than in the medical field is subject to a one-year statute of limitations. However, when the malpractice is done by an attorney paid for by a labor union, the statute of limitations can be as short as six months.
Bodily injury and wrongful death claims are usually subject to a two-year statute of limitations.
A four-year statute of limitation applies to lawsuits to recover personal property, general negligence, invasion of privacy and most fraud.
Identify theft cases must be filed within five years of the identity theft.
Breaches of verbal contracts must be sued upon within six years of the breach, but breaches of written contracts can be sued upon within eight years of the breach.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.