Oklahoma Statutes of Limitation in a General Sense

It is very important when considering filing a lawsuit to understand whether the Statute of Limitations bars the winning of the lawsuit.  Many statute of limitations are not found in the general list of Statutes of Limitation and thus may create a trap for the unwary.  It is always best to speak with an attorney about a specific statute of limitation.  Because of the serious nature repercussions associated with missing the statute of limitations issue it is necessary for me to provide an important notice:

Important Notice: The following overview of Oklahoma’s “statute of limitations” laws is presented on an as-is basis. This information is believed accurate as of the date of authorship, but is not intended to provide a complete analysis of statutory limitations on the right to sue and may not reflect subsequent changes in the law. For a full review of Oklahoma’s “statute of limitations” law, or for a determination of how the law applies to a specific incident or injury, please consult a qualified attorney licensed to practice in the state of Oklahoma.

Generally speaking, a statute of limitations is a law which places a time limit on pursuing a legal remedy in relation to wrongful conduct. After the expiration of the statutory period, unless a legal exception applies, the injured person loses the right to file a lawsuit seeking money damages or other relief.  This affirmative defense is raised in the Answer of the Defendant.

Although people often speak of “the statute of limitations”, in fact there are many statutes which apply limitations periods to civil actions. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of the various statutes and their exceptions. Thus it is a very good idea for somebody who is concerned about losing their right to sue as a result of the expiration of the statutory limitations period to consult with a qualified lawyer, who can help determine which statute applies, and help preserve the right to recover damage.  For instance, there is a very complex set of statutes of limitation related to:  The Government Tort Claim Act and lawsuits for breach of contract involving Insurance Contracts.  It is beyond the scope of this short article to review the individual short statutes of limitation, however, please understand the caveat related to myriad laws of limitation.

The following periods represent a small sample of the statutory limitations periods in Oklahoma. Please note that it may be possible to bring multiple causes of action from a single incident of wrongful conduct, and thus even if it appears that the relevant statute of limitations has run it may remain possible to bring a different claim. Also, there may be an exception to the standard limitations period that applies to any given situation. The following list is provided by way of example. If you wish to know how the statute of limitations applies to a specific situation, you should verify the statutory time period and its relevance to your situation with a qualified Oklahoma lawyer.  Beware of shorter statutes of limitation related to employees of State, County, or Municipal Government which are governed by the Government Tort Claims Act.

Professional Malpractice: Professional negligence actions, including medical malpractice lawsuits, must be filed within 2 years.

Personal Injury: 2 years.

Fraud: 2 years.

Libel / Slander / Defamation: 1 year.

Injury to Personal Property: 2 years.

Product Liability: 2 years.

Contracts: Written, 5 years; Oral, 3 years.

A statute of repose is different from a statute of limitations, in that after the statutory period has expired it is not possible to file a lawsuit even if an injury occurs after that time. For example, if there is a twenty year statute of repose on the manufacture of aircraft, a claim cannot be filed against the manufacturer more than twenty years after the date of manufacture, even if a design or manufacturing defect is responsible for a later accident.  Oklahoma has a 10 year statute of repose for defects occurring in the construction of a building.

A statute of limitations is said to start running at the time a claim accrues. Ordinarily, that is the time at which an injury is suffered.  Normally the courts will decide that the statue starts running on the first day that a lawsuit could have been filed for damages.

Sometimes it is not reasonably possible for a person to discover the cause of an injury, or even to know that an injury has occurred, until considerably after the act which causes the injury. For example, an error in the drafting of a will might not be noticed until the will is being executed, decades after it was drafted, or a financial planner’s embezzlement might not be noticed for years due to the issuance of false statements of account.

When it applies, and the rule is not applied uniformly, the “discovery rule” permits a suit to be filed within a certain period of time after the injury is discovered, or reasonably should have been discovered. The discovery rule does not apply to all civil injuries, and sometimes the period of time for bringing a claim post-discovery can be short, so it is important to seek legal assistance quickly in the event of the late discovery of an injury.

In addition to late discovery, it may be possible to avoid the harsh result of a statute of limitation by arguing that the statute has been “tolled”. When it is said that a statute is “tolled”, it means that something has stopped the statute from running for a period of time. Typical reasons for tolling a statute of limitations include minority (the victim of the injury was a minor at the time the injury occurred), mental incompetence (the victim of the injury was not mentally competent at the time the injury occurred), and the defendant’s bankruptcy (the “automatic stay” in bankruptcy ordinarily tolls the statute of limitations until such time as the bankruptcy is resolved or the stay is lifted).

In certain cases, the statute of limitations may be tolled or stopped.  Usually filing a lawsuit will toll the statute of limitations.  Under Oklahoma law, except in cases of medical malpractice, a minor has one year after his or her eighteenth birthday to commence litigation. In cases of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is very convoluted requiring an attorney to guide the parents in understanding the particular statute which would govern the child’s lawsuit depending on the child’s age.

 

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