Fraud & Statute of Limitations

If a claim is not brought within the correct limitations period, it is barred. The statute of limitations analysis is not always easy, particularly for fraud/intentional misrepresentation. Fraud has nine elements:  (1) a representation; (2) its falsity; (3) its materiality; (4) the speaker’s knowledge of its falsity or ignorance of its truth; (5) the speaker’s intent that it should be acted on by the person and in the manner reasonably contemplated; (6) the hearer’s ignorance of the falsity of the representation; (7) the hearer’s reliance on the representation being true; (8) the hearer’s right to rely thereon; and (9) the hearer’s consequent and proximately caused injury. Stander v. Szabados, 407 S.W.3d 73, 81 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013).
The correct statute of limitations for a fraud claim is found in Section 516.120, RSMo. It states that fraud claims must be brought “within five years.” The cause of action in such case accrues upon discovery of the aggrieved party, at any time within ten years, of the facts constituting the fraud. “Discovery” for purposes of triggering this five year period occurs when the defrauded party discovered the fraud or the exercise of due diligence should have discovered the fraud. Larabee v. Eichler, 271 S.W.3d 542, 546 (Mo. 2008).
Thus, all fraud claims must be brought within five years of the claim accruing, which is either five years after the fraud is discovered or at the end of ten years after the fraud takes place, whichever occurs first. Ellison v. Fry, 437 S.W.3d 762, 769 (Mo. 2014). If a fraud is not discovered within ten years, then the cause of action is barred after fifteen years of its commission. Schwartz v. Lawson, 797 S.W.2d 828, 832 (Mo. Ct. App. 1990).
Further complicating this analysis is that the limitations period is subject to further complexity when there is a fiduciary relationship between the parties. When a fiduciary relationship exists, “only the actual discovery of the fraud serves to begin the limitations period.” Cmty. Title Co. v. U.S. Title Guar. Co., Inc., 965 S.W.2d 245, 252 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998).
Contact with questions relating to fraud/intentional misrepresentations claims and the statute of limtiations.

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