Statute of Repose (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

What is a Statute of Repose?

What legal implications does it have?

What’s the difference with the statute of limitations?

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our legal terminology knowledge!

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What Is A Statute of Repose

A statute of repose refers to a law establishing a deadline for the filing of a claim or lawsuit after which the legal action will be considered as time-barred.

In other words, if a person commits a wrongful act or harms another, the victim or plaintiff will have a specific time period to file a claim.

Claims filed after the expiration of the period of repose will be time-barred.

The doctrine of repose is similar to that of the statute of limitations where both notions relate to the establishment of a legal time period for a lawsuit, claim, or legal action to be filed.

You can find statutes of repose in various contexts and areas of law, such as:

  • Product liability law
  • Probate law 
  • Construction law 
  • Medical malpractice law 
  • Insurance law 

The statute of repose is similar to the statute of limitation where both concepts set a cut-off period for the filing of a lawsuit or claim.

However, the statute of repose is stricter (more beneficial for the defendant) than the statute of limitations.

Typically, when dealing with the repose period, the cut-off will be strictly calculated from the date when the cause of action materialized whereas for the statute of limitations the cut-off date can be extended if the cause of action could not be discovered until a later time.

Statute of Repose Definition

According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, statute of repose is define as:

Any law that bars claims after some action by the defendant, even if the plaintiff has not yet been injured. 

As you can see from this definition, a “statute of repose” refers to:

  • A law
  • That bars a claim
  • From the defendant’s misconduct or injurious act 

Statute of Repose vs Statute of Limitations

What is the difference between a statute of repose and a statute of limitations?

Although statutes of repose and statutes of limitations are laws designed to set a time period for a person to file a lawsuit or a claim, they do not work the same way.

In essence, a “statute of repose” establishes a stricter rule for the filing of a claim than a “statute of limitation”.

The deadline that is imposed by a repose statute generally starts from the moment or date when a person has committed an act causing injury to another or potentially giving rise to a claim.

This means that even if the injured party could not reasonably discover the cause of action until a later time, the statute of repose clock starts ticking from the moment the injurious act took place.

On the other hand, the statute of limitations is less strict in the sense that the objective of the law is to allow for a timely filing of a claim.

In cases where the victim could not reasonably discover the cause of action, the statute of limitations can be extended to tolled.

In other cases where the tortfeasor or party committing the wrongful act attempts to escape liability or conceal evidence, the statute of limitations clock can start ticking as of the moment the injury was discovered as opposed to when the injury was caused.

Statute of Repose Examples

What are some examples of repose statutes?

Many states adopt repose laws to limit claims in many areas.

In the context of construction projects, there are many state repose laws designed to limit claims related to construction defects once a specific period of time has elapsed from the end of the construction project.

In product liability, the statute of repose laws can set time periods to bar actions after a specific number of years have passed from the date the product was delivered.

When the clock starts to run from the moment the product was delivered, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and merchants have better clarity as to the extent of their legal exposure over time.

In estate law and estate administration, many state laws establish clear deadlines for the filing of will contestation claims or for the deceased creditors to pursue a claim against the estate.

Statutes of Repose Takeaways 

So, what is Statute of Repose?

What is the legal definition of repose?

How do statutes of repose work?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Statute of Repose (Period of Repose)

  • ‘Statute of repose’ refers to a law establishing a cut off period or a specific time period to file a claim when the cause of action takes place or the wrongful act is committed 
  • The period of repose starts from the moment the damaging event took place and not when the injury actually manifested itself or occurred 
  • There is a difference between a statute of repose vs statute of limitations where the repose period starts from the date the damaging event took place whereas limitations period may start from the moment the injury discovered 
  • The statute of repose is completely unrelated to the accrual of the cause of action whereas the statute of limitations is linked to filing a claim once the cause of action accrues 
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