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Specific versus General Statute of Limitations

There is a general statute of limitations in Missouri stating that most claims must be brought within five (5) years. See Section 516.120, RSMo. Many times, however, it is not immediately obvious which limitations period will apply to a particular claim. For this reason, many will suggest that five years is a general rule of thumb to keep in mind — even though many claims have a limitations period of two (2) years or less. 

What happens when two different limitations periods could do apply, or arguably apply, to a claim? When there are two separate statutes dealing with the same subject matter, they should be read together and harmonized and force must be given to the provisions of each. State ex rel. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Co. v. Public Service Commission, 441 S.W.2d 742, 746 (Mo. Ct. App. 1969). The more specific statute of limitations should apply and prevail over a more general statute of limitations. City of Ellisville v. Lohman, 972 S.W.2d 527, 534 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998). 

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