NH Law About... Statutes of Limitation (Civil)

Introduction to... Statutes of Limitation (Civil)

Posted July 10, 2014. Revised December 16, 2016. 

 “What is the statute of limitations in New Hampshire?” is a deceptively simple and frequently asked question in the law library. But there is no single statute of limitations in New Hampshire and a "statute of limitation" is just one type of time limit on filing lawsuits. This is a very complex area of law to research because the time limits for filing a lawsuit vary depending upon the jurisdiction, the type of claim and even who the defendant is. Also, there may be more than one statute of limitations that applies to a particular event so that even though one time period has expired, there might still be time to bring an action. Calculating when a statute of limitations starts to “run” (think of it as when the countdown starts) can be difficult and, under certain conditions, statutes of limitations can be “tolled” so that the countdown pauses. Because this is such a complex area of law, researchers should never rely only on online searches for an answer and should consult with a lawyer.  

There is no current, general reference work on statutes of limitations in New Hampshire. For an overview, we suggest Chapter 13 of Personal Injury, Tort, and Insurance Practice by Richard B. McNamara (see below). Chapter 13 provides background information on the history and purpose of statutes of limitations, discusses exceptions to statutes of limitations, and talks about when the time period for bringing an action starts and stops. Personal Injury also discusses specific types of actions such as medical malpractice, defamation, products liability, and others. Other sources include A Practical Guide to Construction Law and Litigation in New Hampshire which discusses statutes of limitation and statutes of repose in relation to construction contract claims. 

When searching the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, we recommend using the print index rather than keyword searching online. This is because many statutes say only that an action must be brought within “x” number of months or years and may never use the phrase “statute of limitations.” Look in the print index under “limitations of actions.”  

The legal encyclopedias Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.) and American Jurisprudence 2d (Am.Jur.2d) referenced below are not readily available except in law libraries. Articles are available from the NH Law Library through document delivery.  

The cases linked to below are there to illustrate various situations that have involved some kind of time limitation on filing an action. They include: statutes of limitations, statutes of repose, non-claim statutes, and laches. 

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.  


Read about... Statutes of Limitation (Civil)

WEBSITES

Cornell Legal Information Institute. Statutes of Limitation  GO>

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

Cornell Legal Information Institute. Statutes of Repose  GO>

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

46 N.H.B.J. 24 (Winter 2006). Building Industry Statute of Repose Upheld: New Hampshire Joins Majority of Other Jurisdictions / Attorneys R. James Steiner and Gayle M. Braley  GO>

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

51 N.H.B.J. 50 (Winter 2010). Nullum Tempus Occurrit Regi:An Antidemocratic Anachronism Survives in New Hampshire / Michael J. Malaguti

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

"At common law, the doctrine of sovereign immunity shielded the monarch from all legal liability. This followed logically from the generally accepted proposition that “the king can do no wrong." A corollary to the doctrine of sovereign immunity exempted the monarch from generally applicable statutes of limitations. This doctrine is known as nullum tempus occurrit regi—“time does not run against the king.”   GO>


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54 C.J.S. Limitations of Actions

"Statutes of repose and statutes of limitations are sometimes confused. They are similar in that both are designed to provide repose for a defendant, and both prescribe the time period within which a plaintiff may commence an action. The distinguishing feature between the two is the time at which the respective periods commence."   GO>

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

51 Am. Jur. 2d Limitation of Actions

"A nonclaim statute is a self-contained statute which absolutely prohibits the initiation of litigation based on it after a prescribed period. While nonclaim statutes limit the time in which a claim may be filed or an action brought, they are separate and distinct from statutes of limitation, and are broader in their operation. Such statutes also are sometimes called special statutes of limitation."   GO>

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

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NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

Statutes of Limitation

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

Use the print index and search under "limitations of actions."   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE CASES

126 N.H. 500 (1985) Appeal of Henry A. Plantier, M.D.

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

Where there are no statutory time limitations applicable to particular administrative proceedings ... the question of whether or not there is a bar by time may turn on the question of laches. Laches, unlike limitation, is not a mere matter of time, but is principally a question of the inequity of permitting the claim to be enforced—an inequity founded on some change in the conditions or relations of the property or the parties involved. In determining whether to apply laches, neither law nor equity nor science has been able to develop any mechanical gauge that will automatically tell litigants or the court the number of months or years that are required to constitute reasonable promptness in bringing a suit to avoid the defense of laches.   GO>

131 N.H. 458 (1989). Stewart v. Farrel

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

"Like most States, New Hampshire has a creditor non-claim statute establishing filing deadlines for claims against an estate."   GO>

149 N.H. 480 (2003) Big League Entertainment, Inc. v. Brox Industries, Inc. & a.

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

"Statutes of limitation generally begin to run at the time of injury or discovery of the injury. They serve to place a limit on the time in which a plaintiff may bring suit after a cause of action accrues. [...] By contrast, statutes of repose create time limitations which are not measured from the date of injury, but rather usually run from an act of a defendant. They extinguish a cause of action after a fixed period of time regardless of when the action accrues, potentially barring a plaintiff's suit before there has been an injury or before the action has arisen."   GO>

159 N.H. 42 (2009) State v. Lake Winnipesaukee Resort, LLC

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

"The legal issue in this interlocutory appeal is whether this action is timely in light of the common law doctrine nullum tempus occurrit regi, or "time does not run against the king" ... The doctrine of nullum tempus is a common law rule excepting the sovereign from general limitations periods."   GO>

167 N.H. 644 (2015). Conant v. O'Meara

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

O'Meara next argues that the Conants' claims are barred by the statute of limitations. He asserts that there are several limitations deadlines that may be applicable to this case and that the Conants have missed all of them by several years. First is the deadline set forth in the parties' agreement to submit to arbitration their claims to the disputed portion of the fee. The second limitations period cited by O'Meara is set forth in New Hampshire's arbitration statute. [...] The third limitations period O'Meara cites is New Hampshire's general three-year statute of limitations for personal actions. RSA 508:4 (2010).   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>
 

FOR MORE HELP ...

LawLine

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

Volunteer attorneys are available to answer legal questions through LawLine, a free service of the NH Bar Association. LawLine is held on the SECOND Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. To reach LawLine, call (toll free) 800-868-1212.   GO>

Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Link verified on: April 21, 2017

Contact the Lawyer Referral Service at (603) 229-0002, or submit an online referral request. Office hours are Monday through Thursday, 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, and 9:00AM to 3:00 PM on Fridays.   GO>

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: May 18, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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