Australia

Australia

In each state or territory of Australia, specific legislation imposes a time period before the end of which proceedings must be commenced for a claim or dispute.

The specific legislation is:

  • Limitation Act 1985 (ACT)
  • Limitation Act 1981 (NT)
  • Limitation Act 1969 (NSW)
  • Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (QLD)
  • Limitation of Actions Act 1936 (SA)
  • Limitation Act 1974 (TAS)
  • Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (VIC)
  • Limitation Act 2005 (WA)

These time periods vary from state to state and depend upon the type of claim. A failure to issue proceedings before the relevant time period expires is likely to result in that claim becoming time barred.

In most Australian states, actions in simple contract or tort must be brought within six years of either the date of breach (contract) or the date on which loss was incurred (tort).

The limitation period may be extended in some circumstances, for example where someone with legal incapacity (such as a minor or a person of unsound mind) has entered into a contract. Some jurisdictions also permit for the limitation period to be extended at the court’s discretion.

Last modified 14 Feb 2024

Austria

Austria

In general, under Austrian law, limitation periods run from the first day on which the claimant could have brought the matter to court. In terms of duration, Austrian law distinguishes between long and short limitation periods. Unless statutory law provides for a shorter limitation period, long limitation periods of 30 years are the default. Short limitation periods are generally three years. For reasons of legal certainty, the 30-year periods are absolute.

With regards to time limits (for instance, limitation periods or preclusion periods), Austrian law draws a distinction between the time limits applicable to substantive and procedural law matters respectively. The rules for the calculation of time limits in respect of substantive law matters are laid down in the Austrian Civil Code (Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). They apply, inter alia, to time limits that result from unilateral legal acts, and to statutory time limits, such as limitation periods or preclusion periods. However, there are also specific limitation periods which displace those set out under the Austrian Civil Code, e.g. within the framework of capital market law, the limitation period for bringing a claim is ten years after completion of the offer, which is subject to prospectus requirements. The ten-year limitation period under capital market law is absolute and applies regardless of the knowledge of the claimant.

Last modified 7 Jul 2023

Bahrain

Bahrain

The general limitation period for bringing civil claims in Bahrain is 15 years from the date on which the unlawful act was committed. However, exceptions exist for certain types of claims relating to insurance, construction, and employment, which each have a limitation period of three years, three years and one year respectively from the date on which the unlawful act was committed.

Last modified 19 Jul 2019

Belgium

Belgium

If a claim is time barred, the court will reject it and will not assess the merits of the case. In principle, all contractual claims or claims for which there exist no specific limitation periods are subject to a ten-year limitation period beginning on the date on which the rights under the contract could have been exercised. Unlike for non-contractual claims (see below), for contractual claims the moment the plaintiff learnt of the existence of the claim is irrelevant for limitation purposes.

For tort or so-called non-contractual claims, this period is five years from the moment the plaintiff learnt of either the damage or its aggravation as well as the identity of the person liable. In any event, there is a back-stop on tort claims of twenty years following the date on which the harmful event occurred.

However, Belgian law has a great variety of other limitation periods which can have different starting points, for example in employment or rent matters. One should therefore be cautious to verify the applicable limitation period before commencing legal proceedings.

Last modified 20 Oct 2023

Brazil

Brazil

The general statutory limitation period for filing civil claims in Brazil is ten years from the date when the cause of action arose but such term is shorter for specific types of claim (e.g. the limitation period for bringing a tort claim is three years). Under the Superior Court of Justice’s recent precedents, the applicable limitation period for damages claims under contractual relationships is ten years.

Last modified 17 Oct 2023

Canada

Canada

Though there is some variance among the Canadian jurisdictions, a civil claim must typically be commenced within the two-year anniversary of the date on which the underlying cause of action arose. The limitation period will be extended if the claim could only be reasonably discovered at some point later than the date on which the cause of action arose (as might be the case where, for example, a fraud perpetrated on the plaintiff or a latent defect in a consumer product could only reasonably be discovered at some later point in time).

Last modified 25 Sep 2023

Chile

Chile

The general statutory limitation period for filing civil claims is five years from the date when the cause of action arose but such a term is shorter for specific types of claim (e.g. the limitation period for bringing a tort claim is four years and limitation for enforcement procedures is three years).

Last modified 10 Oct 2023

China

China

In the PRC, the general limitation period for civil claims is three years. Special limitation periods apply to certain causes of action. The period starts from the day when the claimant knows or should have known that his or her right has been infringed upon and who the defendant is.

Last modified 30 Oct 2023

Denmark

Denmark

The general limitation period for civil claims is three years, depending on the nature and the subject matter of the claim.

The date on which the limitation period begins to run differs depending on the nature and the subject matter of the claim, e.g. whether the claim is in tort or contract.

In general, the limitation period starts from the earliest point at which the claimant could demand fulfilment of the claim, such as from the occurrence of the damage or the time of the breach of contract. However, if the claimant was unaware of the claim or the debtor, the limitation period runs from the day the claimant became aware or should have become aware of it. However, this rule is also subject to the absolute limitation periods, which depend on the nature of the specific claim at hand.

Last modified 20 Jul 2023

Czech Republic

Czech Republic

The limitation periods in Czech law are divided into two categories: the subjective limitation period and the objective limitation period. The subjective limitation period for civil claims is three years and the time it begins to run depends on the type of claim. The subjective limitation period can only run within the objective limitation period, which is ten years from when the claim matures. In other words, the subjective limitation period cannot exceed the end of the objective limitation period. There are specific statutory provisions relating to the limitation period for different types of claims.

There are no thresholds for accessing the courts to bring a civil case. However, an appeal against the decision of the court of first instance can only be filed if the value of the disputed claim exceeds CZK10,000. An extraordinary appeal against the decision of a court of appeal can only be lodged with the Supreme Court if the value of the disputed claim exceeds CZK50,000.

Last modified 17 Jul 2023

Finland

Finland

In Finland, the general limitation period for initiating court proceedings in civil matters is three years, which may be interrupted by a notice to the other party. The limitation period begins to run from a certain due date (invoice, date of performance under a contract etc.), or when the claimant knew or should have known about the cause of the claim. Further, there is a parallel limitation period of ten years, which is irrespective of the knowledge of the claimant.

Last modified 9 Oct 2023

France

France

There is a five-year limitation period usually (but not systematically) starting from the day the claimant knew, or should have known, the facts giving rise to its claim. Five years is the general statutory limitation period for filing civil and commercial claims but different periods may apply depending on the cause of action.

Last modified 9 Nov 2023

Germany

Germany

The standard limitation period for civil claims in Germany is three calendar years, beginning on January 1 following the earlier of either the moment when the claimant knew, or ought to have known:

  • the circumstances giving rise to the claim; and
  • the identity of the defendant.

Last modified 12 Oct 2023

Hong Kong, SAR

Hong Kong, SAR

In most commercial disputes, the limitation period for a claimant to commence a civil action is six years from the date when the cause of action occurred (for example, the date when the defendant committed the breach in a claim for breach of contract). However, in an action for breach of a contract created by deed, the limitation period is extended to 12 years from the date when the cause of action accrued. It is important to note that the Limitation Ordinance also prescribes shorter limitation periods for actions in respect of claims for personal injuries.

Last modified 2 Nov 2023

Hungary

Hungary

The time limit within which claims may be submitted is a matter of substantive law. In most cases (e.g. breach of contract or damage claims), the limitation period is five years and the period starts to run when a claim arose i.e. the completion date of a contract or the date when the damage occurs. However, in some cases this period is considerably shorter (e.g. 30 days for administrative review proceedings).

Last modified 21 Jun 2023

Italy

Italy

As a general rule, contract claims are subject to a ten year limitation period, beginning on the date on which the rights under the contract could have been enforced. For tort claims, the limitation period is five years from the date when the event giving rise to the tort claim occurred.

Last modified 31 May 2023

Ireland

Ireland

Claims for tort and breach of contract (and actions to enforce arbitral awards) generally must be issued within six years (under the Limitation Act 1957).

Cases arising from breach of a deed have a longer limitation period and must be issued within 12 years.

Certain cases attract special limitation periods, most notably:

  • claims for defective products, which must be brought within 3 years of damage (and there is a longstop date of 10 years following circulation of the product);
  • defamation claims, which must be brought within one year (which can be extended to two years in certain circumstances);
  • personal injury claims, which must be brought within two years;
  • regular judicial review actions, which must be brought promptly and in any case within three months of the decision which is being challenged; and
  • judicial review actions for planning matters, which must be brought within eight weeks of the decision of the planning authority.

If a cause of action has been concealed by fraud, this will normally extend the limitation period.

Last modified 5 Dec 2023

Japan

Japan

Under Japanese law, the general statute of limitations period for civil claims (excluding tort) is five years from when the claiming party recognizes grounds of claims (e.g., due and payable, defect, default, breach, etc.) or ten years from the moment the grounds occur, whichever is earlier. For tort claims the limitation period is three years from when the claiming party discovers they have suffered damage and knows the identity of the tortfeasor, or twenty (20) years from the moment the tortious act was made.

Last modified 27 Oct 2023

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

There is a general limitation period of thirty years, which means that a claimant generally has up to thirty years to bring a legal action from the day they knew or should have known the facts giving rise to their claim. However, it is important to note that different subject matters may have specific limitation periods. For instance, commercial claims have a limitation period of ten years.

Last modified 15 Nov 2023

Kuwait

Kuwait

Limitation periods in Kuwait vary depending on the cause of action, but the general limitation period for civil legal claims is 15 years.

Last modified 19 Jul 2019

Mexico

Mexico

Under Mexican law, as a general rule, statute of limitations for civil claims is ten years from the date an obligation may be enforced. For damages, statute of limitation is limited to two years.

Last modified 17 Oct 2023

Netherlands

Netherlands

The general limitation period for civil claims is three to five years, depending on the nature of the claim concerned.

In principle, a claim for specific performance becomes time barred 5 years after the claim became due and payable. A claim for compensation or to pay a penalty generally expires 5 years after the day the injured party becomes aware of:

  • the damages incurred (or that the claimant could demand a penalty); and
  • the identity of the liable party.

In any case, a claim expires after a period of 20 years, unless the law prescribes as otherwise.

A failure to commence proceedings before the relevant time period expires will result in that claim being null and void and therefore dismissed. The defendant should raise this defence.

Limitation periods can be interrupted in most cases. Interruption can take place by:

  • an act of prosecution (bringing a claim by means of a summons or petition);
  • a written demand or notice to that end; or
  • acknowledgement of the claim by the debtor.

Following the interruption, a new limitation period will begin.

Last modified 18 Oct 2023

New Zealand

New Zealand

Limitation is governed in New Zealand by the Limitation Act 2010. This imposes a time period before the end of which proceedings must be commenced for a claim or dispute. A failure to issue proceedings before the relevant time period expires is a defence to the claim and, if such defence is used, will result in that claim becoming “time barred”.

In general, most claims must be brought within six years of the date of the act or omission on which the claim is based unless the “late notice” provisions apply. If the claimant did not know about the act or omission at the time, they have “late knowledge”, and the limitation period expires three years after the claimant knew (or ought to have known) that a claim had arisen. The Limitation Act 2010 also provides for a longstop date of 15 years after the date of the act or omission on which the claim is based, after which a claim cannot be brought.

There are also a small number of specific limitation periods set out in specific Acts of Parliament.

Last modified 31 May 2023

Norway

Norway

The limitation period for civil claims is three years, as a general rule. Legal steps such as filing a complaint to the Conciliation Board, submitting a writ to the District Court or entering into an agreement postponing the deadline, must be taken before the claim becomes time-barred. Time-barred counterclaims may, however, be used as payment/set off insofar as it results from the same legal relation as the claim being settled.

Although the general limitation period for civil claims is three years, limitation periods may vary depending on the nature of the claim, for example a repayment claim covered by a promissory note would result in a ten year limitation period.

The date on which time begins to run may differ depending, for instance, on whether the claim is in tort or contract. In general, the limitation period starts from the earliest point at which the claimant could demand fulfilment of the claim. For contractual claims, this means that the limitation period starts from the time of the breach of contract. For tortious claims, time starts to run from the time the claimant became aware or should have become aware of the damage and the debtor/wrongdoer.

If the claimant was unaware of the claim or the debtor, a separate one-year limitation period runs from the day the claimant became aware or should have become aware of the claim. Such an additional limitation period, starting to run at a later stage, may grant a claimant more than the general rule of three years from the breach of contract (in a contractual claim), and is a very important rule in practice.

The additional one-year limitation period will, however, never provide for a claim to be heard later than 13 years from the breach of contract in contractual claims. By way of comparison, the maximum period for a claim in tort to be heard is 20 years after the basis of liability (ie the tortious act or omission) ceased to exist. There are some exceptions to this rule, including in claims for damages for personal injury.

Last modified 29 Oct 2023

Oman

Oman

Under Omani law, the application of limitation periods are a substantive law issue and therefore governed by the laws applicable to a particular contract or interaction between the parties. Advice should be sought on a case-by-case basis since its expiry can critically affect a party’s ability to bring a claim. The limitation periods in respect of Omani laws are set out below.

Omani law also prescribes a range of different limitation periods depending on the type of claim in issue, for example:

  • one year to file labour claims;
  • two years to file insurance recovery claims;
  • three years to file a claim of construction defect; and
  • five years to file a compensation claim for damage resulting from actions.

Last modified 1 Dec 2023

Poland

Poland

The limitation period starts from the date when the claim arises (or if action is required for the claim to become due, from the earliest possible time when it could have arisen i.e. when certain action could have been taken).

The limitation periods applicable to civil claims are in general:

  • six years; or
  • three years where the claim relates to periodical performance and/or business activities (i.e. commercial cases).

However, the limitation period ends on the last day of the calendar year (unless the limitation period is less than two years – which it can be in certain cases).

Generally speaking, a creditor or claimant is entitled to pursue their claim even after the relevant limitation period has expired. It is then for the debtor or defendant to raise a limitation defense. If the debtor or defendant does not raise this defense, the court will be entitled to award relief pursuant to the claimant’s request.

Last modified 2 Oct 2023

Portugal

Portugal

The general limitation period for civil claims in Portugal is 20 years from the date that the claimant’s right to bring the claim becomes enforceable (i.e. the moment when the claimant knew or ought to have known – whichever is the earlier – the circumstances giving rise to such right and the identity of the defendant). There are, however, exceptions providing for shorter limitation periods, notably the following:

  • Five years for statutory or agreed interest, namely within financial agreements, and other specific situations;
  • Three years for non-contractual liability;
  • Two years for lawyers’ fees and other payment of services claims, amongst other things; and
  • Six months for claims from establishments providing accommodation services against consumers, amongst other things.

The most common trigger for a limitation period to start is the event that constitutes the grounds for the claim, but a later date can be triggered if the perpetrator or details and/or consequences of the event only become known at a later date.

Given the number of potential scenarios, the limitation period for each claim must be analyzed on an individual, case-by-case basis.

Last modified 22 Sep 2023

Qatar

Qatar

Under Qatari law, the application of limitation periods is usually a substantive law issue and therefore governed by the law applicable to a particular contract or interaction between the parties. Advice should be sought on a case-by-case basis on the applicable limitation period since its expiry can critically affect a party's ability to bring a claim. Where Qatari law is the applicable law in respect of a limitation period, the general position is set out below.

Qatari law also prescribes a range of different limitation periods depending on the specific type of claim in issue. In particular, the position in respect of contractual claims is generally as follows:

  • claims which are considered to arise out of a commercial arrangement/activity will have a limitation period of ten years from the breach occurring; and
  • claims which are not considered to arise out of a commercial arrangement/activity will have a limitation period of 15 years from the breach occurring.

Last modified 11 Dec 2023

Romania

Romania

The general limitation period in Romania for pecuniary civil claims is three years, but there are several exceptions, depending on the nature of the rights in question. Limitation periods usually start running from the moment when the claim is due and payable. 

In certain situations, different limitation periods will apply. For example:

  • for property claims, the limitation period is ten years; and
  • for insurance and reinsurance claims, the limitation period is two years.

Last modified 27 Oct 2023

Russia

Russia

The standard limitation period for submitting a claim in Russia is three years from the day when the claimant became aware, or should have become aware, of both the violation of its right and who the appropriate respondent is. There are certain shorter limitation periods (e.g. for challenging a voidable transaction).

Last modified 19 Jul 2019

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

In general, limitation periods for civil claims are not applied in Saudi courts, as under Sharia law, a right to claim is not waived due to the passage of time. However, there are some exceptions where certain laws impose limitation periods such as the Commercial Maritime Law, Board of Grievances Law and Labour Law.

Last modified 19 Jul 2019

Singapore

Singapore

The Limitation Act 1959 (Limitation Act) provides that claims based on torts (i.e. civil wrongs) or breach of contract must be issued within six years of the cause of action accruing. However, the limitation period may be extended in cases involving fraud or mistake. In such cases the limitation period generally starts to run from the time the fraud or mistake is actually discovered or could have been discovered with reasonable diligence.

Different limitation period may apply in other claims, for example, a 12-year limitation period applies for action on judgment or action to recover land.

Last modified 2 Oct 2023

Slovakia

Slovakia

The general limitation period is three years for civil claims and four years for commercial claims.

However, the following special limitation periods apply for several civil claims:

  • Except where damages concern harm to a person’s health, the right to sue for damages becomes statute-barred after two years from the day that the aggrieved party became aware of the damage and has ascertained the party responsible for such damage. There is a back-stop on damages claims of three years from the date of damage, unless the damage was caused intentionally - in which case limitation is extended to ten years. Furthermore, the right to sue for damages caused by bribery is statute-barred three years from the day that the court’s judgment comes into effect and, at the latest, ten years from the day the criminal offence was committed.
  • The right to demand the return of any benefit from unjust enrichment becomes statute-barred after two years from the day that the entitled person becomes aware of the unjust enrichment and has ascertained the enriched party. There is a back-stop on such claims of three years from the date of the enrichment, unless the enrichment was wilful – in which case limitation is extended to ten years. Relatedly, if the parties to an invalid or cancelled contract are obliged to return to each other all that they received under the contract, the court will take into account a claim of limitation only if the other party could also claim limitation.
  • Rights connected to transport become statute-barred after one year, except for the right to damages connected with passenger transport.
  • A right that is equivalent to an easement becomes statute-barred if not exercised for ten years.
  • A right to a debt granted under the final decision of a court (or another authority) becomes statute-barred after ten years from the date on which the right was to be exercised under the decision. If the right is acknowledged by the debtor in writing (in respect of both the grounds and the amount), this is extended to ten years from the date of acknowledgment. If the acknowledgement states the time-period for performance, the period of limitation shall commence after the expiry of such period. If the court’s decision (or the debtor’s acknowledgment) divided repayment of the debt into separate instalments, the limitation period is ten years from the date on which each instalment becomes due. If, due to the failure to make some of the instalments, the entire debt becomes due, the ten-year period of limitation commences from the outstanding instalments become due.
  • Interest and reoccurring performances become statute-barred after three years. Where rights that were finally and conclusively granted or acknowledged in writing are concerned, such a period of limitation shall apply only to the interest and reoccurring performances that became due after the decision entered into full force and effect or after the acknowledgement.

The limitation period generally commences on the date that the right could be exercised for the first time. The period of limitation concerning rights that must be first exercised by a natural person or legal entity commence on the date that the right is exercised in such manner. For a claim concerning the right of payment under insurance, the period of limitation commences one year from the insured event. Where the right of a beneficiary heir to obtain their inheritance is concerned, the period of limitation commences on the date that the decision concluding the inheritance proceedings comes into full force and effect.

Note that there are further provisions applicable for commercial claims.

Last modified 1 Jun 2023

South Africa

South Africa

Limitation / Prescription Periods

The principle of extinctive prescription means that certain types of debts or obligations may be extinguished or become unenforceable within a prescribed time. The Prescription Act 1969 (Prescription Act) regulates extinctive prescription, and its provisions apply as long as they do not conflict with other statutory provisions providing for their own specified periods. Failure to meet such time periods may prevent an aggrieved person from instituting a claim.

The Prescription Act provides for different extinctive prescription periods, depending on the type of debt and debtor. These are:

  • thirty years in respect of:
    • a debt secured by a mortgage bond;
    • a judgment debt;
    • any debt in respect of tax levied in terms of any statute; and
    • any debt owing to the state regarding the prospecting for and mining of minerals or other substances;
  • fifteen years in respect of a debt owing to the state arising from a loan of money or the sale or lease of land, unless a longer period applies;
  • six years in respect of a debt arising from:
    • a bill of exchange or any other negotiable instrument; or
    • a notarial contract unless a longer period applies;
  • three years in respect of any other debt, unless specifically provided for by statute.

The prescription period starts to run as soon as a debt becomes due and may be interrupted in certain circumstances, such as an acknowledgement of the debt by the debtor (for example, paying part of the debt before prescription), or the serving of a summons by the creditor on the debtor to claim payment.

Last modified 18 Aug 2023

South Korea

South Korea

Under the Korean Civil Code, the general statute of limitations for civil claims is ten years. However, the Korean Commercial Code provides a shorter statute of limitations for claims that arise from commercial transactions (i.e., five years in principle). Further, certain types of claims are subject to special statute of limitations as provided under other governing statutes.

The statute of limitations generally begins to run when the cause of action arises (e.g., breach of agreement). For tort claims, actions must be brought within

  • ten years of the date when the tort was committed; or
  • three years of the date when the claimant became aware of the damages and the identity of the tortfeasor, whichever is earlier.

All civil claims must be brought before the civil court that has jurisdiction, except for disputes that must be heard by the Patent Court, the Family Court or the Administrative Court mentioned above.

Even in cases where either party or both parties are not domiciled in Korea or the subject of the action is located outside Korea, a Korean court may exercise jurisdiction under the Private International Law Act over any dispute as long as it has substantial nexus with South Korea. A South Korean court would have jurisdiction if:

  • either party is domiciled or has residence in South Korea;
  • either party has a principal place of business or operations in South Korea or was established or incorporated under the South Korean laws;
  • either party has a place of business in South Korea, and the dispute relates to such business;
  • either party engages in continuous and organized business activities in South Korea, that target South Korea or are directed toward South Korea, and the dispute relates to such business activities; or
  • the subject of dispute involves assets in South Korea, or the defendant’s assets to which the plaintiff may seek an attachment are located in South Korea.

A person who seeks to file a lawsuit with a civil court in South Korea must pay a filing fee and service of process fees. The cost of the filing fee will be calculated according to a formula set in the Supreme Court rules.

Last modified 18 Oct 2023

Spain

Spain

According to the Civil Code of Spain, personal actions for which there is no specific statutory limitation will become time barred after five years from the date on which fulfilment of the obligation can be demanded. While a five year limitation period is the default position, the Civil Code also establishes other limitation periods (e.g., a one year limitation for civil tort liability; a 20 year limitation for foreclosure of a mortgage; and a four year limitation for an action for annulment).

Last modified 20 Jul 2023

Sweden

Sweden

Should a party wish to commence proceedings in Sweden, it must bear in mind that a claim must be filed within the general ten-year statutory limit, except for business to consumer claims, which must be filed within two years. The time limit can be renewed by service of notification of the debt, service of application of summons or enforcement measures.

Last modified 18 Oct 2023

Thailand

Thailand

The Thai Civil and Commercial Code prescribes limitation periods for the filing of cases, which vary according to the nature of the issues in dispute and the related law. The most commonly applicable limitation periods include:

  • one (1) year for negligence and wrongful act claims, starting from the date on which the loss and the identity of the tortfeasor becomes known (up to a maximum of ten (10) years from the date of the loss);
  • two years from when a hire of works renumeration becomes due and payable, but five (5) years if the work in question was for the debtor’s own business affairs; and
  • ten (10) years from the date of breach for general commercial contracts.

Where there is no specific limitation period, a general ten-year limit applies from the date the cause of action arises. For a civil case, if the limitation period is not raised as a defence, Thai courts cannot raise the issue on their own volitions.

Last modified 8 Nov 2023

UK - England & Wales UK - England & Wales

UK - England & Wales

The Limitation Act 1980 provides that claims based on torts (i.e. civil wrongs) or breach of contract must be issued within six years of the cause of action arising - this being either the date on which the negligent act or omission occurred, or the date on which the breach of contract occurred respectively. However, a different limitation period may apply where, for example, the claim is based on the breach of a deed (in which case a 12-year limitation period applies).

Last modified 30 Jan 2024

UK - Scotland

UK - Scotland

The prescriptive (limitation) period for contractual and tortious claims in Scotland is five years. For personal injury claims it is three years. In both cases the prescriptive period runs from the date the loss, injury or damage occurs, although commencement can be delayed where the defender doesn’t know a loss has occurred, and a claim must be raised and served on the other party within this period. After the time period has expired, the claim is said to have prescribed and the right to enforce is lost.

Last modified 18 Oct 2023

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

The application of limitation periods is usually an issue of substantive law and therefore the law applicable to the particular contract or interaction of the parties. Advice should be sought on a case-by-case basis on the applicable limitation period and its expiry, as it can critically affect a party's ability to bring a claim.

Assuming that DIFC or ADGM law is the applicable law in respect of limitation periods, the general position is set out below.

Under DIFC law, the position is generally as follows:

  • an action for breach of contract must be commenced within six years after the cause of action accrued;
  • in respect of claims in negligence, occupiers' liability or misrepresentation, a cause of action arises on the earliest date on which the claimant knows or ought reasonably to know about the loss that gives rise to the cause of action, and an action must be commenced within 15 years of the date that the cause of action in fact arose; and
  • where a cause of action arises as a result of fraud by the defendant, there is no time limit before which the action must be commenced.

The ADGM Regulations adopt selected pieces of English legislation, including the English legislation relating to limitation and in particular adopts the Limitation Act 1980 and the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984. The position is, generally, as follows:

  • an action for breach of contract must be brought within six years of the date of the breach of contract;
  • an action for breach of deed must be brought within 12 years of the breach of the obligation in the deed;
  • an action in tort/negligence generally, must be brought within six years from the date the damage is suffered;
  • an action in negligence, and in respect of latent damage, has to be brought within the later of six years from the date the damage occurred or three years from the date on which the claimant had the requisite knowledge and the right to bring such an action; and
  • an action in fraud has to be brought within six years from when the claimant discovered the fraud, or when they could, with reasonable diligence, have discovered it.

Last modified 1 Dec 2023

United States

United States

The statute of limitations is a time limit imposed by law during which a party may bring legal action. The limitation period for civil claims varies by jurisdiction and depends on the nature of the claim being brought. These periods typically range from between one and six years but can be longer depending on the applicable state law and the claim at issue. Once the limitations period expires, a court lacks jurisdiction to hear even an otherwise valid claim.

Last modified 22 Sep 2023

Australia’s courts operate under the common law legal system. Australia has a federal system of government, with legislative power divided between the federal branch of government and six state and two territory governments (for ease, we refer collectively to the states and territories as the state or states). Australia’s courts are similarly divided into eight separate state jurisdictions and a federal jurisdiction, which each operate on a parallel but independent hierarchy of courts. Lower courts are bound by previous decisions made by higher courts in the same hierarchy. Decisions made by higher courts are persuasive, but not binding, on lower courts in a different hierarchy (for example, decisions made by the Federal Court do not bind a state District Court).

State and federal courts broadly have jurisdiction over the application of legislation enacted by the state and federal parliaments respectively. The High Court of Australia is the ultimate court of appeal in Australia for all court systems. There are also tribunals created by specific legislation under state and federal jurisdictions. Courts often have jurisdictional limits as to the types of matters, and quantum in dispute, that they will hear. A dispute over a small quantum cannot be commenced, at first instance, before a state Supreme Court.

Australia’s official language is English. All Court proceedings will be conducted in English and judgments will be delivered in English.

In each state or territory of Australia, specific legislation imposes a time period before the end of which proceedings must be commenced for a claim or dispute.

The specific legislation is:

  • Limitation Act 1985 (ACT)
  • Limitation Act 1981 (NT)
  • Limitation Act 1969 (NSW)
  • Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (QLD)
  • Limitation of Actions Act 1936 (SA)
  • Limitation Act 1974 (TAS)
  • Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (VIC)
  • Limitation Act 2005 (WA)

These time periods vary from state to state and depend upon the type of claim. A failure to issue proceedings before the relevant time period expires is likely to result in that claim becoming time barred.

In most Australian states, actions in simple contract or tort must be brought within six years of either the date of breach (contract) or the date on which loss was incurred (tort).

The limitation period may be extended in some circumstances, for example where someone with legal incapacity (such as a minor or a person of unsound mind) has entered into a contract. Some jurisdictions also permit for the limitation period to be extended at the court’s discretion.

The process of litigation is broadly similar across Australian courts. Proceedings are initiated by a claim or application, which must be filed in the relevant court and by the initiating party on all parties to the proceeding. Parties will then exchange pleadings (such as statements of claim, defences, counterclaims, and replies) which define the parameters of the dispute between the parties and the specific issues which are to be proved by each party. Timeframes for the progression of litigation are found in the civil procedure rules applicable in each jurisdiction. Generally, a defence must be filed within 28 days of service of a statement of claim.

For proceedings in the Federal Court, parties are required to file a genuine steps statement, which outlines the steps taken to make a sincere and genuine attempt to resolve the dispute prior to commencing litigation. Superior courts in the states may also require a party to litigation to provide details of attempts made to resolve a dispute before proceedings were commenced.

Once the exchange of pleadings is complete, parties will generally undertake the discovery (also known as the disclosure) process, and then go on to prepare their evidence for a final hearing of the dispute. It is common, particularly in complex litigation, for the parties to be obliged to attend court at regular intervals for directions hearings, in which orders are given to manage the conduct and timeframes of the case up until its final hearing.

Timeframes for each stage of proceedings vary greatly with the complexity and case management style of an individual matter and the specific jurisdiction in which the case is commenced. Each superior court in the states has in place specific practice notes or directions for the conduct of commercial disputes with the aim of ensuring that those commercial disputes are resolved in the most cost-effective and time-efficient manner possible. Generally, across all jurisdictions, parties will have 28 days from receipt of a claim to put on a defence. As noted above, the timetable from that point of time will depend on the nature of the dispute.

A straightforward commercial contract dispute will normally, court resources permitting, be resolved within 12 months.

Most state and federal courts require a corporate entity to be represented by a lawyer (which could include a lawyer employed by a company). Some jurisdictions dealing with small claims/employment issues may allow a company to appear by its director. Individuals may appear on their own behalf in most jurisdictions without a lawyer.

In Australia, the discovery process is designed to allow parties to civil litigation to obtain from an opponent all documents relevant to the issues in dispute. Australian courts strictly prohibit “fishing expeditions” through discovery. Discovery is usually undertaken after the close of pleadings (although in some courts in some states this may not be permitted until after evidence is complete) when the points of dispute between the parties have crystallized. Discovery may however be ordered, in limited circumstances, prior to the commencement of proceedings where an applicant is able to satisfy the court that he or she needs to obtain discovery in order to find out whether or not a cause of action exists against a potential defendant.

The practice of disclosure varies between those jurisdictions which mandate a general right of discovery and those in which the right is more limited. In the Northern Territory and the states of South Australia and Queensland, parties have a mandatory duty of disclosure which is discharged by the exchange of lists or copies of discoverable documents. In Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, a party may, by written notice to another party, require that party to make general discovery. In the Federal Court of Australia and New South Wales, the right to discovery is limited and requires an order of the court and will usually be limited to specific categories.

There have been recent attempts by some of the states’ superior courts to more tightly control the disclosure process. For example, the preparation of disclosure plans (which identify the categories of documents to be disclosed and how they will be disclosed), and the courts ordering that discovery being provided after the exchange of written evidence with a view to limiting the number of documents to be exchanged.

In the Federal Court and most state courts, discovery can be ordered to be made by non-parties to the dispute where the court is satisfied as to the likelihood of the non-party having relevant documents. Courts in Australia will also generally permit the issuing of subpoenas to produce documents to non-parties to litigation and this process will be more straightforward than seeking non-party disclosure orders.

Default judgment can be applied for in proceedings in any court where a defendant does not:

  • file a defence within the specified timeframe after a statement of claim has been served; or
  • fails to make an appearance at a hearing.

A default judgment is not a judgment on the merits of the claim, but rather a sanction for a party’s failure to comply with the rules or orders of the Court. Once a default judgment is ordered against a defendant, a defendant can, in limited circumstances, seek to challenge the granting of that default judgment. The defendant will need to file an application or motion to set aside the default judgment within a specified period of time and show cause for why (usually lack of notice of the claim or that notice was given of intent to defend but that notice was not brought to the attention of the court which granted the default judgment) the judgment should be set aside.

Judgments of civil courts in Australia can be appealed to a superior court. An appeal does not suspend the effect of the judgment being appealed, except in so far as a court having jurisdiction in the matter may direct. Civil procedure legislation in each jurisdiction sets out the rules and procedure for appeals. Ordinarily, it will be necessary to seek leave from the superior court to appeal. The Court of Appeal in each state, and the Full Federal Court, are the ultimate courts of appeal for each of those jurisdictions. Cases that emanate from the Federal Circuit Court are appealable to the Federal Court and then the Full Federal Court, whereas matters emanating from a State Magistrates Court are appealable to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Decisions made by the District Court (County Court in certain states) are appealable to the Supreme Court and decisions of the Supreme Court can be appealed to the state’s Court of Appeal. The High Court of Australia hears appeals from courts of appeal (sometimes referred to as the full court) in all jurisdictions, and has limited original jurisdiction (which predominantly relates to constitutional matters).

Parties generally, depending on the jurisdiction, have 28 days from the date of judgment or final order, to lodge an appeal in a civil matter to the relevant appeal court. Appeals will generally, because of the limitation of introducing new evidence in most civil appeals, be resolved more quickly than matters at first instance. Most appeals of civil matters will be heard and judgment given within six to eight months from commencement of the appeal.

All superior Australian courts have a wide power and discretion to grant both interlocutory orders and interlocutory injunctions. An interlocutory application, generally speaking, is an application which seeks any order other than a final judgment.

As in other jurisdictions, interlocutory injunctions are a species of interlocutory orders. Where those orders are sought on an urgent and temporary basis until a more extended form of relief is sought, they are often referred to as interim orders.

Interlocutory orders (including interlocutory injunctions) can require a party to undertake or refrain from a particular act, and can be granted before proceedings have commenced, once they are on foot and after judgment has been entered. Applications for these types of orders may be made by self-represented litigants or through legal representation.

The categories of non-urgent interlocutory orders that an applicant may seek are many and varied and include, by way of example, applications for security for costs, discovery (including preliminary discovery before proceedings have been commenced), the filing of expert evidence or orders for particulars. The evidence required to obtain non-urgent interlocutory orders will turn on the type of orders sought, although at the very least substantive interlocutory applications usually require a sworn affidavit to be filed.

The kinds of relief that can be sought by way of an urgent interlocutory injunction are equally varied. This is because the orders have the purpose of preserving the status quo until the rights of the parties can be determined finally, and the types of matters that can be heard by the court are vast. Common urgent interlocutory injunctions include applications for the preservation of property, the freezing of assets and applications to search premises to preserve evidence.

An applicant for an interlocutory injunction (either urgent or not) must prove that:

  • there is a serious question of law to be tried;
  • the balance of convenience favours the granting of the injunction; and
  • an award of damages (at the conclusion of the proceeding) would not be an adequate remedy.

It is possible for urgent interlocutory injunction applications to be heard by the court ex parte, without the opposing party's involvement. Any orders given ex parte will generally operate only for a limited period of time until the matter can be brought to a hearing. The duration of any ex parte order will ordinarily be limited to a period terminating on the return date of the summons, which should be as early as practicable (usually not more than a day or two) after the order was made, when the respondent will have the opportunity to be heard. For this reason appeals of ex parte interlocutory injunctions are not usually made to a superior court. The applicant will then bear the onus of satisfying the court that the order should be continued or renewed. A party seeking an interlocutory injunction will ordinarily be obliged to give an undertaking to pay any damages by the defendant suffered as a result of the injunction in the event that the claim for final relief at trial fails.

The decision to grant an interlocutory injunction can be on an urgent basis to a relevant appeal court. The appeal court will usually list the matter before a single judge to assess the urgency (often the same or the day following the day on which the appeal is lodged) and set a timetable based on the information provided at that first listing.

 

 

Australian state and federal courts can grant interim freezing orders, which restrain a defendant from disposing of property prior to judgment. These orders are a species of interlocutory orders. Such applications may be filed at the Supreme Court or Federal Court. A freezing order is normally obtained ex parte without notice to the respondent, before service of the originating process, because notice or service may prompt the feared dissipation or dealing with assets. A freezing order or an ancillary order may be limited to assets in Australia or in a defined part of Australia, or may extend to assets anywhere in the world, and may cover all assets without limitation, assets of a particular class, or specific assets. It would therefore be possible for a freezing order to encompass bank accounts as well as assets such as real property, art, securities or motor vehicles. Such orders would, however, normally allow for access to funds for reasonable expenses, living costs and payments in the ordinary course of a defendant or third party's business. A court may also order a freezing order against a third party, where it can be established that there is a risk that a judgment or prospective judgment may be unsatisfied as a result of a third party's power, possession or influence over the assets in question. The power to issue a freezing order is a function of courts' authority to prevent an abuse of the court process by the frustration of court-ordered remedies. A freezing order will be made only to preserve the status quo for the purpose of resolving a substantive cause of action brought by the plaintiff, and not as a stand-alone remedy.

The criteria for the issue of a freezing order is similar to the ordinary principles for the grant of interim relief, as discussed above, although the potentially serious impact on a defendant's property rights raises the threshold for the granting of a freezing order. This may be overcome by an undertaking as to damages given by the applicant of the freezing order, where the applicant undertakes to submit to such order (if any) as the court may consider to be just for the payment of compensation (to be assessed by the court or as it may direct) to any person affected by the operation of the order. The High Court of Australia described freezing orders as '"a drastic remedy which should not be granted lightly". Broadly and generally, an applicant must show that:

  • the applicant has a good arguable case (in the substantive cause of action);
  • the refusal of a freezing order will give rise to a real risk that any judgment pronounced in the action will remain unsatisfied, or that the recovery of any judgment will be prejudiced by reason of the removal by the defendant of assets from the jurisdiction, or their dissipation within it; and
  • the balance of convenience favours the making of the order.

Australian courts have wide discretion to award costs orders against either party to cover the opposing party's costs of litigation. The general rule is that costs follow the event. This means that the unsuccessful party will be liable to pay the litigation costs of the successful party. The aim of this rule is to achieve a just outcome by shifting the costs burden on to the party which is found to have either unjustifiably brought another party before the court or given another party cause to have recourse to the court to obtain their rights.

Where each litigant has enjoyed some success in the proceedings, courts may modify the general rule to make costs orders that reflect the litigants' relative success and failure. Courts may depart from the general rule by requiring a successful party to bear their own costs where there is good cause to do so. Such an outcome may be justified where, for example, a successful plaintiff is awarded only nominal damages, or a party succeeds only due to late and substantial amendments to their case.

Of particular strategic importance is the rule that generally a court will not award costs to a successful party which has obtained relief no more favourable than had already been offered by his or her opponent in settlement discussions. This rule is designed to encourage the early resolution of litigated disputes.

Costs orders are subject to a costs assessment process administered by the courts. It is unusual that a party will be able to recover all of its actual legal costs through this process. On a standard assessment, parties may recover approximately 60% to 75% of their actual costs. A higher rate of assessment, on an indemnity basis, may be employed where a party has engaged in unreasonable conduct in the proceeding.

All courts in Australia will charge fees for commencing civil proceedings (often referred to as a filing fee). Some jurisdictions, particularly superior courts, will also charge additional fees including but not limited to daily hearing fees (calculated by reference to the length of the trial), filing fees for notices of motions/applications and the issuing of subpoenas to third parties. These fees are set by the courts and are published on their websites. They are usually reviewed on a yearly basis. By way of example, the current rate (effective from 1 July 2023) for commencing proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia is AUD4,760 for corporations and the daily hearing fee for corporations can range from AUD3,180 (for the first four days) and AUD16,945 (for the 15th and subsequent days).

In all Australian jurisdictions, a representative proceeding, or class action (as it is more commonly known in Australia) may be commenced by or against any one person as a representative of numerous persons (the minimum number required is generally seven people) who have the same interest in the proceeding and the claims brought give rise to a substantial common issue of law or fact. It is possible to commence a class action against multiple defendants and there is no requirement for every group member to have a claim against every defendant.

An overarching consideration of the courts in hearing a representative proceeding is whether it involves less delay, expense, and prejudice to the parties than alternative forms of trial. If not, the court may discontinue the proceedings.

The Federal, New South Wales, Victorian and, most recently, Queensland jurisdictions contain further statutory provisions in relation to representative proceedings, which are arguably more liberal and plaintiff-friendly than other jurisdictions. These jurisdictions allow representative proceedings to be brought where seven or more people have claims which arise out of the same or related circumstances and give rise to a substantial common issue of fact or law. Over 90% of all class actions filed in Australia from 1992-2009 were filed in the Federal Court of Australia.

When a representative proceeding is commenced, all potential plaintiffs who fall within a class become members of the class, whether they are aware of the claim or not. Members can then opt out of the proceedings before a date set by the court. All class members who do not opt out will be bound by the judgment of the court or by any approved settlement.

It is important to note that, although some states have yet to formally abolish the law of champerty and maintenance, outside of the US, Australia has one of the most developed class action industries, with a variety of large, class action plaintiff law firms and with many litigation funders having been active in the jurisdiction for over 20 years. This active funding industry has seen a continued increase in the number of class actions being commenced in Australia.

Cameron Maclean

Cameron Maclean

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Perth
[email protected]
T +61 8 6467 6013
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Richard Edwards

Richard Edwards

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Perth
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T +61 8 6467 6244
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Corey Steel

Corey Steel

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Perth
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T +61 8 6467 6234
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Natalie Caton

Natalie Caton

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Brisbane
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T +61 7 3246 4161
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Liam Prescott

Liam Prescott

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Brisbane
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T T: +61 7 3246 4169
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Sophie Devitt

Sophie Devitt

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Brisbane
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T +61 7 3246 4058
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James Morse

James Morse

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Sydney
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T +61 2 9286 8530
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Gitanjali Bajaj

Gitanjali Bajaj

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Sydney
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T +61 2 9286 8440
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Tricia Hobson

Tricia Hobson

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Sydney
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T +61 2 9286 8023
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Fleur Gibbons

Fleur Gibbons

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Melbourne
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Gowri Kangeson

Gowri Kangeson

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Melbourne
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T +61 3 9274 5428
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Kieran O'Brien

Kieran O'Brien

Partner
DLA Piper Australia - Melbourne
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T +61 3 9274 5840
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