In this post, I’m continuing with my series on Statutes of Limitation in both California and New York. In a prior post, I described the statute of limitations that applies to a civil fraud lawsuit under California. This post will be the New York counterpart to that post.
The New York answer is a bit more complicated. Instead of a flat figure (e.g. 3 years, 5 years, etc), New York’s statute of limitations for civil fraud is the greater of:
- six years starting from when the fraud is actually committed, or
- two years from the time when the fraud was actually discovered or when it could have been discovered with plaintiff’s reasonable diligence.
All of this is in section 213(8) of New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR 213(8)).
It’s quite important, I think, that CPLR 213(8) provides for the “greater of” as opposed to the “lesser of”. For instance, suppose that CPLR 213(8) said the statute of limitations was the lesser of six years from the fraud is committed or two years from the time the fraud was or could have been discovered. If the fraud is discovered soon after (say, a few months) of it being committed, then the plaintiff only has the two years from the date of discovery to file suit. If the fraud isn’t discovered right away (e.g. say it goes undiscovered for several years), then the defendant is in the clear as soon as they hit the six year mark.
Because CPLR 213(8) instead says “greater of”, though, it goes in the plaintiff’s (i.e. fraud victim’s) favor. For a fraud that is discovered right away, the plaintiff has six years from the date the fraud is committed and not the three years California would provide or the two years New York would provide if CPLR 213(8) said “lesser of”. For fraud that isn’t discovered right away but still reasonably quickly, the six year threshold would hopefully still dominate which means the plaintiff would still have more than either two or three years. For frauds that aren’t discovered for a long time, the two year clock from the time of discovery would hopefully dominate. The defendant would not be in the clear automatically just because they managed to hide their fraud for at least six years.
Hopefully that all made sense and you can see how important and powerful one word can be when it comes to legal matters. Anyway, as always, I hope you found this post helpful. It is not intended to be a comprehensive discussion of the fraud statute of limitations in New York under the CPLR. Please do your own research to see what, if anything, had changed under New York law at the time you’re reading this post. If you have a case involving a fraud situation in New York, please do find a lawyer in your area to consult with face-to-face. Lastly, my usual reminder applies: I do not maintain an office in New York state which means under Section 470 of New York’s Judiciary Law, I do not take clients in New York.
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