LIMITATION, estates. When an estate is so expressly confined and
limited by the words of its creation, that it cannot endure for a longer time
than till the contingency shall happen, upon which the estate is to fail, this
is denom-inated a limitation; as, when land is granted to a man while he
continues unmarried, or until the rents and profits shall have made a certain
sum, and the like; in these cases the estate is limited, that is, it does not go
beyond the happening of the contingency. 2 Bl. Com. 155; 10 Co. 41; Bac. Ab.
Conditions, H; Co. Litt. 236 b; 4 Kent. Com. 121; Tho. Co. Litt. Index, h. t.;
10 Vin. Ab. 218; 1 Vern. 483, n. 4; Ves. Jr. 718.
2. There is a difference between a limitation and a condition. When a thing
is given until an event shall arrive, this is called a limitation; but when it
is given generally, and the gift is to be defeated upon the happening of an
uncertain event, then the gift is conditional. For example, when a man gives a
legacy to his wife, while, or as long as, she shall remain his widow, or until
she shall marry, the estate is given to her only for the time of her widowhood
and, on her marriage, her right to it determines. Bac. Ab. Conditions, H. But
if, instead of giving the legacy to the wife, as above mentioned, the gift had
been to her generally with a proviso, or on condition that she should not marry,
or that if she married she should forfeit her legacy, this would be a condition,
and such condition being in restraint of marriage, would be void.
LIMITATION, remedies. A bar to the alleged right of a plaintiff to
recover in an action, caused by the lapse of a certain time appointed by law; or
it is the end of the time appointed by law, during which a party may sue for and
recover a right. It is a maxim of the common law, that a right never dies and,
as far as contracts were concerned, there was no time of limitation to actions
on such contracts. The only limit there was to the recovery in cases of torts
was the death of one of the parties; for it was a maxim actio personalis moritur
cum persona. This unrestrained power of commencing actions at any period,
however remote from the original cause of action, was found to encourage fraud
aud injustice; to prevent which, to assure the titles to land, to quiet the
possession of the owner, and to prevent litigation, statutes of limitation were
passed. This was effected by the statutes of 32 Hen. VIII. c. 2, and 21 Jac, I.
c. 16. These statutes were adopted and practiced upon in this country, in
several of the states, though they are now in many of the states in most
respects superseded by the enactments of other acts of limitation.
2. Before proceeding to notice the enactments on this subject in the several
states, it is proper to call the attention of the reader to the rights of the
government to sue untrammeled by any statue of limitations, unless expressly
restricted, or by necessary implication included. It has therefore been decided
that the general words of a statute ought not to include the government, or
affect its rights, unless the construction be clear and indisputable upon the
text of the act; 2 Mason's R. 314; for no laches can be imputed to the
government. 4 Mass. R. 528; 2 Overt. R. 352; 1 Const. Rep. 125; 4 Henn. & M.
53; 3 Serg. & Rawle, 291; 1 Bay's R. 26. The acts of limitation passed by
the several states are not binding upon the government of the United States, in
a suit in the courts of the United States. 2 Mason's R. 311.
3. For the following abstract of the laws of the United States and of the
several states, regulating the limitations of actions, the author has been much
assisted by the appendix of Mr. Angell's excellent treatise on the Limitation of
4. United States. 1. On contracts. All suits on marshals' bonds shall be
commenced and prosecuted within six years after the right of action shall have
accrued, and not after; saving the rights of infants, femes covert, and persons
non compos mentis, so that they may sue within three years after disability
removed. Act of April 10, 1806, s. 1.
5. - 2. On legal proceedings. Writs of error must be brought within five
years after judgment or decree complained of; saving in cases of disability the
right to bring them five years after its removal. Act of September 24, 1789, s.
22. And the like limitation is applied to bills of review. 10 Wheat. 146.
6. - 3. Penalties. Prosecutions under the revenue laws, must be commenced
within three years. Act of March 2, 1799, Act of March 1, 1823. Suits for
penalties respecting copyrights, within two years. Act of April 29, 1802, s. 3.
Suits in violation of the provisions of the act of 1818, respecting the slave
trade, must be commenced within five years. Act of April 20, 1818, s. 9.
7. - 4. Crimes. Offences punishable by a court martial must be proceeded
against within two years unless the person by reason of having absented himself,
or some other manifest impediment, has not been amenable to justice within that
period. The act of April 30, 1790, s. 31, limits the prosecution and trial of
treason or other capital offence, wilful murder or forgery excepted, to three
years next after their commission; and for offences not capital to two years,
unless the party has fled from justice. 2 Cranch, 336.
8. Alabama. 1. As to real estate. 1. After twenty years after title accrued,
no entry can be made into lands. 2. No action for the recovery of land can be
maintained, if commenced after thirty vears after title accrued. 3. Actions on
claims by virtue of any title which has not been confirmed by either of the
boards of commissioners of the United States, for adjusting land claims &c.,
and not recognized or confirmed by any act of congress, are barred after three
years; there is a proviso as to lands formerly in West Florida, and in favor of
persons under disabilities.
9. - 2. As to personal actions. 1. Actions of trespass, quare clausum fregit;
trespass; detinue; trover; replevin for taking away of goods and chattels; of
debt, founded on any lending or contract, without specialty, or for arrearages
of rent on a parol demise of account and upon the case, (except actions for
slander, and such as concern the trade of merchandise between merchant and
merchant, their factors or agents, are to be commenced within six years next
after the cause of action accrued, and not after.
10. - 2. Actions of trespass for assaults, menace, battery, wounding and
imprisonment, or any of them, are limited to two years.
11. - 3. Actions for words to one year.
12. - 4. Actions of debt or covenant for rent or arrearages of rent, founded
upon any lease under seal, or upon any single or penal bill for the payment of
money only, or on any obligation with condition for the payment of money only,
or upon any award under the hands and seals of arbitrators, are to be commenced
within sixteen years after the cause of action accrued, and not after; but if
any payment has been made on the same at any time, then sixteen years from the
time of such payment.
13. - 5. Judgments cannot be revived after twenty years.
14. - 6. A new action must be brought within one year when the former has
been reversed on error, or the judgment has been arrested.
15. - 7. Actions on book accounts must be commenced within three years,
except in the case of trade or merchandise between merchant and merchant, their
factors or agents.
16. - 8. Writs of error must be sued out within three years after final
17. Arkansas. 1. As to lands. No action for the recovery of any lands or
tenements, or for the recovery of the possession thereof, sball be maintained,
unless it appears that the plaintiff, his ancestor, predecessor, or grantor, was
seised or possessed of the promises in question within ten years before the
commencement of such suit. Act of March 3, 1838, s. 1. Rev. Stat. 527. No entry
upon lands or tenements shall be deemed sufficient or valid as a claim, unless
an action be commenced thereon within one year after such entry, and within ten
years from the time when the right to make such entry descended and accrued. Id.
s. 2. The right of any person to the possession of any lands or tenements, shall
not be impaired or affected by a descent cast in consequence of the death of any
person in possession of such estate. Id. s. 3.
18. The savings are as follows: If any person entitled to commence any action
in the preceding sections specified, or to make an entry, be, at the time such
title shall first descend or accrue; first, within the age of twenty-one years;
second, insane; third, beyond the limits of the state; or, fourth, a married
woman; the time during which such disabilities shall continue, shall not be
deemed any portion of the time in this act limited for the commencement of such
suit, or the making of such entry; but such person may bring such action, or
make such entry, after the time so limited, and within five years after such
disability is removed, but not after that period. Id. S. 4. If any person
entitled to commence any such action, or make such entry, die during the
continuance of such disability specified in the preceding section, and no
determination or judgment be had of the title, right, or action to him accrued,
his heirs may commence such action, or make such entry, after the time in this
act limited for that purpose, and within five years after his death, and not
after that period. Id. s. 5, Rev. Stat. 527.
19. - 2. As to personal actions. 1. The following actions shall be commenced
within three years after the cause of action shall accrue: first, all actions
founded upon any contract, obligation, or liability, (not under seal,) excepting
such as are brought upon the judgment or decree of some court of record of the
United States, of this, or some other state; second, all actions upon judgments
rendered in any court not being a court of record; third, all actions for
arrearages of rent, (not reserved by some instrument under seal); fourth, all
actions of account, assumpsit, or on the case, founded on any contract or
liability, expressed or implied; fifth, all actions of trespass on lands, or for
libels; sixth, all actions for taking or injuring any goods or, chattels. Id. s.
6, Rev. Stat. 527, 528.
20. - 2. The following actions shall be commenced within one year after the
cause of action shall accrue, and not after: first, all special actions on the
case for criminal conversation, assault and battery and false imprisonment;
second, all actions for words spoken, slandering the character of another;
third, all words spoken whereby special damages are sustained. Id. s. 7.
21. - 3. All actions against sheriffs or other officers, for the escape of
any person imprisoned on civil process, shall be commenced within one year from
the time of such escape, and not after. Id. s. 8.
22. - 4. All actions against sheriffs and coroners, upon any liability
incurred by them, by doing any act in their official capacity, or by the
omission of any official duty, except for escapes, shall be brought within two
years after the cause of action shall have accrued, and not thereafter. Id. s.
23. - 5. All actions upon penal statutes where the penalty or any part
thereof, goes to the state, or any county, or person suing for the same, shall
be commenced within two years after the offence shall have been committed, or
the cause of action shall have accrued. Id. s. 10.
24. - 6. All actions not included in the foregoing provisions, shall be
commenced within five years after the cause of action shall have accrued. Id. s.
25. - 7. In all actions of debt, account or assumpsit, brought to recover any
balance due upon a mutual, open account current, the cause of action shall be
deemed to have accrued from the time of the last item proved in such account Id.
26. The savings are as follows: 1. If any person entitled to bring any action
in the preceding seven sections mentioned, except in actions against sheriffs
for escapes, and actions of slander, shall, at the time of action accrued, be
either within the age of twenty-one years, or insane, or beyond the limits of
this state, or a married woman, such person shall be at liberty to bring such
action within the time specified in this act, after such disability is removed.
Id. s. 13.
27. - 2. If any person entitled to bring an action in the preceding
provisions of this act specified, die before the expiration of the time limited
for the commencement of such suit, and such cause of action shall survive to his
representatives, his executors or administrators may, after the expiration of
such time, and within one year after such death, commence such suit, but not
after that period. Id. s. 19.
28. - 3. If at any time when any cause of action specified in this act
accrues against any person, he be out of the state, such action may be commenced
within the times herein respectively limited, after the return of such person
into the state; and if, after such cause of action shall have accrued, such
person depart from, and reside out of the state, the time of his absence shall
not be deemed or taken as any part of the time limited for the commencement of
such action. Id. s. 20. If any person, by leaving the county absconding or
concealing himself, or any other improper act of his own, prevent the
commencement of any action in this act specified, such action may be commenceed
within the times respectively limited, after the commencement of such action
shall have ceased to be so prevented. Id. s. 26.
29. - 4. None of the provisions of this act shall apply to suit's brought to
enforced payment on bills, notes, or evidences of debt issued by any bank, or
moneyed corporation. Id. s. 18.
30. Connecticut. 1. As to lands. No person can make an entry into lands after
fifteen years next after his right or title first accrued to the same; and no
such entry is valid unless an action is afterwards commenced thereupon, and is
prosecuted with effect within one year next after the making thereof; there is a
proviso in favor of disabled persons, who may sue within five years after the
disability has been removed.
31. - 2. As to personal actions. 1. In actions on specialties and promissory
notes, not negotiable, the limitation is seventeen years, with a saving that
"persons legally incapable to bring an action on such bond or writing at the
accruing of the right of action, may bring the same within four years after
becoming legally capable."
32. - 2. Actions of account, of debt on book, on simple contract, or
assumpsit, founded on an implied contract, or upon any contract in writing, not
under seal, (except promissory notes not negotiable,) within six years, saving
as above three years.
33. - 3. In trespass on the case, six years, but no savings.
34. - 4. Actions founded upon express contracts not reduced to writing; upon
trespass; or upon the case for word; three years and no savings.
35. - 5. Actions founded on penal statutes one year after the commission of
36. - 6. A new suit must be commenced within one year after reversal of the
former, or when it was arrested.
37. Delaware. 1. As to lands. Twenty years of adverse possession of land is a
bar. The general principles of the English law on this subject, have been
adopted in this state.
38. - 2. As to personal actions. All actions of trespass quare clausum
fregit; of detinue; trover and replevin, for taking away goods or chattels; upon
account and upon the case; (other than actions between merchant and merchant,
their factors and servants, relating to merchandise;) upon the case for words;
of debt grounded upon any lending or contract without specially; of debt for
arrearages of rent; and all actions of trespass, assault, battery, menace,
wounding or imprisonment, shall be commenced and sued within three years next
after the cause of such action or suit accrues, and not after.
39. The 2d section of the same act contains a saving, in favor of persons
who, at the time of the cause of action accrued, are within the age of
twenty-one years; femes covert; persons of insane memory, or imprisoned. Such
persons must bring their actions within one year next after the removal of such
disability as aforesaid.
40. In the 3d section of the same act, provision is made, that no person not
keeping a day book, or regular book of accounts, shall be admitted to prove or
require payment of any account of longer standing than one year against the
estate of any person dying within the state, or if it consist of many
particulars, unless every charge therein shall have accrued within three years
next before the death of the deceased, and unless the truth and justice thereof
shall be made to appear by one, sufficient witness; and in case of a regular
book of accounts, unless such account shall have accrued or arisen within three
years before the death of the deceased person.
41. In section 6th, there is a saving of the rights or demands of infants,
femes covert, persons of insane memory, or imprisoned, so their accounts be
proved and their claims prosecuted within one year after the removal of such
42. By a supplementary act, it is declared, that nothing contained in this
act, shall extend to any intercourse between merchant and merchant, according to
the usual course of mercantile business nor to any demands founded on mortgages:
bonds, bills, promissory notes, or settlements under the hands of the parties
43. All actions upon administration, guardian and testamentary bonds, must be
commenced within six years after passing the said bonds; and actions on
sheriff's recognizances, within seven years after the entering into such
recognizances, and not after; saving in all these cases, the rights of infants,
femes covert, persons of insane memory, or imprisoned, of bringing such actions
on administration, guardian or testamentary bonds, within three years after the
removal of the disability, and on sheriff's recognizances within one year after
such disability removed.
44. No appeal can be taken from any interlocutory order, or final decrees of
the chancellor, but within one year next after making and signing the final
decree, unless the person entitled to such appeal be an infant, feme covert, non
compos mentis, or a prisoner.
45. No writ of error, can be brought upon any judgment, but within five years
after the confessing, entering or rendering thereof, unless the person entitled
to such writ, be an infant, feme covert, non compos mentis, or a prisoner, and
then within five years exclusive of the time of such disabi- lity. Constitution,
article 5, s. 13.
46. There is no saving in favor of foreigners or citizens of other states.
The courts of this state have adopted the general principles of the English