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Statutes of Limitations for Civil Claims in Colorado
Statutes of limitations are laws that require a cause of action to be brought within a certain amount of time after it accrues otherwise the action can no longer be brought. Put in other words, if a lawsuit asserting relief for an underlying action is not brought within the statute of limitations time period, the plaintiff will be barred from bringing the lawsuit indefinitely.
Under Colorado law, the time frames for bringing a civil claim are governed by C.R.S. § 13-80-101, et seq, and are specific to particular types of causes – that is, different types of claims have different statute of limitations periods. Importantly, statutes of limitations are an affirmative defense, meaning that it must be asserted by the party against whom the claim is asserted. If the party being sued doesn’t assert that a claim is barred by an applicable statute of limitations, the lawsuit can continue even if it would have been barred.
When a Cause of Action Begins to Accrue
Generally speaking, a cause of action begins to accrue and the statute of limitations begins to run from the date the injury is discovered or the date it should have been discovered if the party had exercised reasonable due diligence. See C.R.S. § 13-80-108.
While the accrual date for some injuries is obvious – such as personal injuries where a person is physically hurt, the accrual date for other injuries can be much less apparent. For example, in fraud and misrepresentation actions, the discovery of the fraud or misrepresentation may not occur until years after the injury took place. Accordingly, in these kinds of actions the accrual date does not begin to run until the fraud or misrepresentation is discovered or should have been discovered. C.R.S. § 13-80-108.
Another common example of issues when a statute of limitations period begins to run is in the context of missed payments on a promissory note or loan. Typically, when a loan is taken out, the person receiving the loan will agree to make payments on the loan until it is paid off. However, if the person begins to miss payments, does the statute of limitations begin to run from each payment such that each missed payment has its own accrual date?
Generally speaking, the answer is no. While an individual may have missed payments on a loan, the accrual date for recovering for debt owed does not start to run until the “performance becomes due.” C.R.S. § 13-80-108. While a missed payment is money owed on the loan, the entire loan amount is usually not due until the date the final payment is supposed to be made. Thus, since a missed payment is only partial payment of the loan, it does not count as the date the “performance becomes due” and is not the accrual date.
However, while a missed payment may not count as the accrual date, loans typically have a provision that allows the creditor to accelerate the entire loan if a payment, or a certain number of payments, is missed. Once the loan is accelerated, the entire loan amount becomes due and the statute of limitations will begin to run from the acceleration date.
On a more general level, for lawsuits brought to recover debt or money owed, Colorado courts have interpreted the date that “performance becomes due” to run from the date that the creditor takes some clear, unequivocal act evidencing their intention to accelerate the entire debt. This can include sending a letter noticing acceleration of the entire debt or, in the case of real property, repossessing that property and indicating sending a notice of intent to sell that property. See Hassler v. Account Brokers of Larimer County, Inc., 274 P.3d 547 (Colo. 2012) (finding in a delinquent auto-loan case that the statute of limitations ran from the date the car was repossessed and a notice of intent to sell was sent to the lendee).
Civil Statutes of Limitations in Colorado
The following civil actions must be brought within 1 year from the date the cause of action accrues:
– Assault, batter, false imprisonment, false arrest, libel, and slander
– All actions for escape of prisoners
– All actions against sheriffs, coroners, police officers, firefighter, national guardsmen, or any other law enforcement authority
– All actions for any penalty or forfeiture of any penal statutes
– All actions under the Motor Vehicle Repair Act of 1977, C.R.S. § 42-9-101, et seq. (governing repair of motor vehicles)
– All actions against a person alleging liability for a penalty for commission of a class A or a class B traffic infraction
See C.R.S. § 13-80-103.
The following civil actions must be brought within 2 years from the date the cause of action accrues:
– Tort actions, including but not limited to actions for negligence, trespass, malicious abuse of process, malicious prosecution, outrageous conduct, interference with relationships, and tortious breach of contract
– All actions for strict liability, absolute liability, or failure to instruct or warn
– All actions, regardless of the theory asserted, against any veterinarian
– All actions for wrongful death, except as described in subsection C.R.S. § 13-80-102(2)
– All actions against any public or governmental entity or any employee of a public or governmental entity for which insurance coverage is provided pursuant to article C.R.S. § 24-14-101
– All actions upon liability created by a federal statute where no period of limitation is provided in said federal statute
– All actions against any public or governmental entity or any employee of a public or governmental entity, except as otherwise provided in this section or section 13-80-103
– All other actions of every kind for which no other period of limitation is provided
– All actions brought under section C.R.S. § 42-6-204 (pertaining to sales of used motor vehicles)
– All actions brought under section 13-21-109(2) (pertaining to recovery for bounced checks)
See C.R.S. § 13-80-102.
The following civil actions must be brought within 3 years from the date the cause of action accrues:
– All contract actions, including personal contracts and actions under the “Uniform Commercial Code”, except as otherwise provided in section 13-80-103.5
– All actions for fraud, misrepresentation, concealment, or deceit except those in section 13-80-102(1) (j) or section 13-80-103(1) (g)
– All actions for breach of trust or breach of fiduciary duty
– All claims under the “Uniform Consumer Credit Code”, except section C.R.S. § 5-5-201(5)
– All actions of replevin or for taking, detaining, or converting goods or chattels, except as otherwise provided in section 13-80-103.5
– All actions under the “Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act”, C.R.S. § 42-7-101, et seq.
– All actions under C.R.S. § 10-4-601, et seq. (pertaining to auto-insurance)
– All actions accruing outside this state if the limitation of actions of the place where the cause of action accrued is greater than that of this state
– All actions of debt under C.R.S. § 40-30-102 (pertaining to plowing along railroad tracks)
– All actions for recovery of erroneous or excessive refunds of any tax under C.R.S. § 39-21-102
– All tort actions for bodily injury or property damage arising out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle including all actions pursuant C.R.S. 13-80-101(1)(j)
See C.R.S. § 13-80-101.
The following civil actions must be brought within 6 years from the date the cause of action accrues:
– All actions to recover a liquidated debt or an unliquidated, determinable amount of money due to the person bringing the action, all actions for the enforcement of rights set forth in any instrument securing the payment of or evidencing any debt, and all actions of replevin to recover the possession of personal property encumbered under any instrument securing any debt; except that actions to recover pursuant to section C.R.S. § 38-35-124.5(3) (pertaining to closing and settlement services for real estate transactions)
– All actions for arrears of rent
– All actions brought under C.R.S. § 13-21-109 (pertaining to bounced checks), except actions brought under C.R.S. § 13-21-109(2)
– All actions by the public employees’ retirement association to collect unpaid contributions from employers for persons who are not members or inactive members at the time the association first notifies an employer of its claim for unpaid contributions. This paragraph (d) shall apply to causes of action as provided in C.R.S § 24-51-402(2)
See C.R.S. § 13-80-102.5.
Additional statutes of limitations include:
– Actions alleging negligence, breach of contract, lack of informed consent, or other action arising in tort or contract to recover damages from any health care institution must be brought within 2 years from the date of accrual of the cause of action. C.R.S. § 13-80-102.5.
– All actions except those governed by C.R.S. § 4-2-725, brought against a manufacturer or seller of a product, regardless of the substantive legal theory or theories upon which the action is brought, for or on account of personal injury, death, or property damage caused by or resulting from the manufacture, construction, design, formula, installation, preparation, assembly, testing, packaging, labeling, or sale of any product, or the failure to warn or protect against a danger or hazard in the use, misuse, or unintended use of any product, or the failure to provide proper instructions for the use of any product shall be brought within two years after the claim for relief arises and not thereafter. C.R.S. § 13-80-106.
– All actions against any architect, contractor, builder or builder vendor, engineer, or inspector performing or furnishing the design, planning, supervision, inspection, construction, or observation of construction of any improvement to real property shall be brought within the time provided in section 13-80-102 after the claim for relief arises, and not thereafter, but in no case shall such an action be brought more than six years after the substantial completion of the improvement to the real property, except as provided in subsection (2) of this section. C.R.S. § 13-80-104.
© 2016 J.D. Porter, LLC; Jordan Porter. Denver, Colorado.