Every attorney has welcomed in his or her office a prospective client or two who, with 30 days to appeal, made an appointment for a consultation on the 29th day. That may occasion an eye roll, but we learn to work quickly whenever possible.
A more problematic issue follows a slightly different pattern. One party breaches a contract. The two keep trying to talk it out. The months and years pass quickly as emails fly back and forth sometimes with long intervals in between. But a lawsuit may only be filed within a certain time, set by what is known as a statute of limitation. Sometimes that is a period of years, but even those creep up on a would-be litigant. Sometimes they’re quite short.
Not only that, but a second statute, known as a statute of repose, comes into play. Those are much longer, but they are unmovable. The statute of limitations’ clock starts running when the plaintiff is or should be aware of the defendant’s actions causing harm. The statute of repose does not care who knows what or when.
Those statutes prevent, as the legal quip goes, lawsuits from being brought by plaintiffs who “slept on their rights.” Being diligent is crucial in legal matters, even if the system does not always return the favor and the wheels of justice turn slowly. Drowsy litigants will find statutes of limitation and repose to be impregnable fortresses.