The statute of limitations is a deadline by which you must file a lawsuit. If you don’t timely file, then the claim is barred no matter how strong the case may otherwise be. The applicable deadline depends on the nature of the claim. The general, default rule in Missouri is that claims must be brought within five (5) years — but beware some claims must be brought in as little as two (2) years. For some new claims, like employment discrimination suits, certain administrative procedures and complaints must be filed in less than a year to meet deadlines.
To determine whether a statute of limitation bars recovery, the first issue to resolve is to establish when the claim accrues. Jepson v. Stubbs, 555 S.W.2d 307, 311 (Mo. 1977). A cause of action accrues, and the limitation period begins to run, when the right to sue arises. Hunter v. Hunter, 236 S.W.2d 100, 103 (Mo. 1951).
Note that under certain circumstances, the limitation period may be extended by the Court because of a defendant’s wrongful conduct. Perhaps most prominently, the doctrine of fraudulent concealment tolls the limitations period. Fraudulent concealment is any improper act by a defendant preventing the discovery of facts constituting the cause of action by due diligence. Smile v. Lawson, 435 S.W.2d 325 (Mo. 1968). The rationale is that a plaintiff should not be punished for failing to make a timely claim when a defendant prevents its discovery.
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