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Statutes of Limitation – Breach of Contract

In a prior blog post, I went over statutes of limitation and specifically discussed the New York and California statutes of limitation for defamation. To continue with that idea — and totally not because I have run out of ideas to blog about — I’m going to go over the statute of limitations for breach of contract. In my experience — which is by no means exhaustive — breaches of contract are very common. Many people have an intuitive sense of when a contract is broken (i.e. someone is supposed to do something and they aren’t) so it is logical to wonder what statute of limitations applies.

Knowing what statute of limitation applies is only a small part, though. Actually proving the existence of a clear and enforceable contract can be quite involved. Always consult an attorney regarding your personal and — most likely — unique situation.

All of that said, let me talk about California first. California applies different statutes of limitation on contract breaches depending on whether the contract in question is oral or written. For an oral contract, the applicable period is 2 years under California Code of Civil Procedure section 339. For a written contract, the applicable period is 4 years under California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.

New York does not distinguish between breaches of oral and written contracts like California does. In New York, contract breaches are subject to a 6 year statute of limitations under New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (NY CPLR) section 213(2), but exceptions do exist. Some situations (see NY CPLR section 213(a)) have a 4 year statute of limitations.

As you can hopefully see, determining when your statute of limitations period begins can be complicated as is potentially the question of whether the statute of limitations might be paused or tolled for any period for any reason. Always consult an attorney regarding your person and — most likely — unique situation.

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Andy Chen

Andy I. Chen is a lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York. Andy maintains offices in Los Altos, California and Modesto, California. Under the New York Court of Appeals' 2015 decision in Schoenefeld v. State of New York, Andy does not accept cases from those in New York state. He does, however, know many lawyers in New York state and would be happy to make a referral.

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