Understanding Statutes of Limitations
At Rushing & Guice, we handle a large amount of commercial litigation. When a new client meets with us to discuss a business dispute or a commercial claim he or she wishes to pursue, we of course want to help them and be their advocate as to any viable cause of action they have.
But when a business owner comes in with a legitimate commercial claim, it is always disappointing if we have to inform them that the time to pursue their case has passed and that they are out of luck in terms of legal remedies.
Such moments are a reminder that when a business dispute arises, it is important to be aware of the statute of limitations for bringing such claims, and equally important to meet with an experienced commercial litigation attorney to discuss your claims soon after they arise or shortly after you become aware of them.
When the Clock Starts and Stops
As a preliminary matter, though there is a single “Statute of Limitations” in Mississippi, different claims, whether they be for distinct types of commercial cases, personal injury suits, or criminal matters, have their own time periods during which a lawsuit must be filed.
A limitations period starts running when a claim “accrues,” which is generally when the act that forms the basis of the claim occurs, such as when a party commits an act which constitutes a breach of contract or makes a statement that forms the basis of a fraud claim. However, if a defendant fraudulently conceals a cause of action from the plaintiff, the cause of action will not accrue until the plaintiff discovers (or could have discovered with reasonable diligence) the existence of the cause of action. MS Code § 15-1-67
Sometimes, parties to a contract may wish to modify the time within which they can bring claims relating to that contract. While some states allow this, Mississippi does not. MS Code § 15-1-5 provides that a limitations period “shall not be changed in any way whatsoever by contract between parties, and any change in such limitations… shall be absolutely null and void.”
The following is a brief rundown of Mississippi’s statutes of limitations for some of the most common commercial claims:
- Breach of Contract. The statute of limitations for breach of either a written or oral contract is three years, except that an action based on an unwritten contract of employment needs to be commenced within one year after the cause of action accrues. For sales contracts governed by the Uniform Commercial Code, the statute of limitations is six years from when the breach occurred, regardless of the aggrieved party’s lack of knowledge of the breach.
- Debt Collection. Actions on an open account must be filed within three years after the cause of action accrues, which is usually the date when the items sold became due and payable. Actions on a promissory note must be commenced within three years from the date of last payment or if no payment was made, within three years from the date the note was signed.
- The limitations period for a fraud claim in Mississippi is three years, though as noted the limitations period will be tolled (that is, it will stop running and be extended for a period of time) if the fraud has been actively concealed.
- Tortious Interference With Contract and Unfair Competition. The statute of limitations is three years for these for these business torts.
While patience may be a virtue in many aspects of both business and life, it is definitely a potential vice in the context of commercial litigation claims. That doesn’t necessarily mean running to the courthouse at the first perceived slight, but it definitely should mean meeting with an experienced attorney to understand your options and time limits soon after you realize that you have in fact been slighted.
Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C: Mississippi and Gulf Coast Commercial Litigation Attorneys
At Rushing & Guice, experienced commercial litigation counsel is a phone call away. Call us at (228) 374-2313 or fill out our online form to arrange for a free, limited initial consultation. We look forward to hearing from you, and look forward to the opportunity to serve as your attorneys.
This website has been prepared by Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C. for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.