The statute of limitations is the law that requires a legal claim to be brought before a certain period of time has passed. For lawsuits dealing with contracts in Massachusetts, the statute of limitations is typically six years after the contract was broken.
Six Years to File a Lawsuit for Contract Issues in Massachusetts
Most legal claims that stem from contracts fall under the six-year statute of limitations set out in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260, § 2. This includes claims for things like:
- Breach of contract, including an employment contract
- Violating the statute of frauds
- Breaking an oral or verbal agreement
- Violating a non-compete, non-solicitation, or non-disclosure agreement in a contract
However, there are some exceptions to the six-year rule. M.G.L. c. 260, § 1 provides a 20-year statute of limitations to the following types of contracts or agreements:
- Contracts made under seal
- Bank-issued notes of debt
- Promissory notes that were signed in the presence of an attesting witness, if the lawsuit is being brought by the original payee
- Fees owed by prison inmates
The Statute of Limitations is Strictly Enforced
One of the most important things to know about the statute of limitations is that it absolutely has to be followed. People who want to enforce their contractual rights, but who wait for too long and file their lawsuit after the statute has expired, will lose. All that the other party has to do is point out that the claim was not timely brought and the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
Your case can be the strongest one on the docket – if it is filed after the statute of limitations has expired, it will still lose.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
The time period set by the statute of limitations begins when the cause of action accrues. For most contracts, this means that the six year period to file a lawsuit starts when the contract is breached or broken.
However, there are some circumstances that can toll, or delay, the start of the six years. When it comes to contract cases, though, these circumstances are quite rare and usually involve:
- The person violating the contract fraudulently conceals the breach so you do not notice it until much later
- The victim was under 18 or was mentally incapacitated when the contract was breached
Additionally, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts tolled all statutes of limitations for 106 days from March 17 through June 30, 2020.
Contact a Lawyer Well Before the Statute Expires
It is crucially important to understand that the statute of limitations gives you six years to file your claim. Putting together a lawsuit is not something that can be done overnight. Investigating and building your case so you can advance the strongest arguments possible can take weeks or months, especially if you delay – documents might be lost and witnesses may have moved or forgotten what they saw. Reaching out to a lawyer when there are only a few days left to file your claim is one of the best ways to doom your case.
Massachusetts Business and Contract Litigation Lawyers at the Katz Law Group
Call the business and contract litigation lawyers at the Katz Law Group at (508) 480-8202 or contact them online as soon as you think you have a case. They serve clients in Worcester, Marlborough, Framingham, and the rest of Massachusetts.