Statute of repose
in the United States
|Resolution without trial|
Difference from statutes of limitation
Most courts hold that statutes of repose are distinct from statutes of limitation, though their effects are very similar. A statute of limitations focuses on requiring timeliness from an injured party, and thus has many exceptions where a delay is not the injured party's fault. But a statute of repose focuses on immunizing the alleged injuring party from long-term liability, and thus may even be based on elapsed time from an event other than the injury. Deadlines imposed by statutes of repose are enforced much more strictly than those of statutes of limitation. The operation of statutes of limitation can be avoided or tolled by a number of equitable factors, such as the minority of the injured party, or attempts by a tortfeasor to conceal evidence of responsibility. Some statutes of limitation begin to run only when the injured party discovers the injury.
As the U.S. Supreme Court noted, statutes of limitation and statutes of repose are often mistaken for the same thing, even by Congress in the enactment of federal statutes.
- While the term "statute of limitations" has acquired a precise meaning, distinct from "statute of repose," and while that is its primary meaning, it must be acknowledged that the term "statute of limitations" is sometimes used in a less formal way. In that sense, it can refer to any provision restricting the time in which a plaintiff must bring suit. ... Congress has used the term "statute of limitations" when enacting statutes of repose. See, e.g., 15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(h)(1)(B)(iii)(I)(aa) (2012 ed.) (creating a statute of repose and placing it in a provision entitled "Statute of limitations"); 42 U.S.C. § 2278 (same). And petitioner does not point out an example in which Congress has used the term "statute of repose." So the Court must proceed to examine other evidence of the meaning of the term "statute of limitations" as it is used in § 9658. 
A statute of repose may impose a much stricter deadline than a statute of limitation. A statute of repose, in contrast to a statute of limitations, "is designed to bar actions after a specified period of time has run from the occurrence of some event other than the injury which gave rise to the claim."
Simply put, the difference is that a statute of limitations is triggered by an injury, while a statute of repose is triggered by the completion of an act. An example of the statute of repose trigger is when a construction project is "substantially completed," meaning that just those items on a "punch list" remain.
In products liability
As such, a statute of repose may bar a remedy even before a cause of action arises. For example, in a products liability action, a statute of limitation may apply to bar lawsuits a set number of years after the product causes an injury; but a statute of repose may also apply, barring an action after a certain number of years from the date when the product was initially delivered. For example, if a defective product sold to a consumer more than ten years ago injures someone, a ten-year statute of repose (which starts on the product's purchase date) might bar a claim even if the statute of limitation (which starts on the date of injury) does not.
Because statutes of repose, unlike statutes of limitation, impose an absolute bar to actions against manufacturers, usually after the goods are delivered or installed rather than the date when they cause harm, they are strongly favoured by industry trade groups and opposed by consumer organizations and tort lawyers. In the United States, statutes of repose are a part of legislative proposals for "tort reform".
In estate administration
Some states have statutes of repose in the administration of decedent's estates, requiring actions such as will contests or claims that the estate owed money to a creditor are barred by statutes of repose unless brought within the prescribed period under which the claimant or creditor may act.
These statutes, the original nonclaim statutes, are less controversial. Public policy favours the distribution of estates to the heirs with all deliberate speed; after this, the estate is empty. Creditors of the decedent who do not act upon receiving actual or constructive notice that an estate has been opened have their claims cut off, and cannot disturb the peaceful possession of the distributed assets by the heirs.
- P. Stolz Family Partnership LP v. Daum., 355 F.3d 92, 102 (2d Cir. 2004).
- CTS Corp. v. Waldburger., 134 S. Ct. 2175, 2185 (2014)
- Gray v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., 821 N.E.2d 431 (Ind.Ct.App 2005); Kissel v. Rosenbaum, 579 N.E.2d 1322, 1326 (Ind.Ct.App.1991).
- See, for example, Ind. Code 34-20-3-1
- In re Estate of Brown, 587 N.E.2d 686 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992)
- In re Estate of McNabb, 744 N.E.2d 569, (Ind. Ct. App. 2001)
- For example, Ind. Code 29-1-14-1.