Legal Memorandum: Contra Non Valentum Doctrine in LA

Issue: How does Louisiana’s law of contra non valentum affect the viability of potential claims of prescription?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Contra non valentum; Prescriptive period
Jurisdiction: Louisiana
Cited Cases: 599 So. 2d 816; 813 So.2d 1252; 509 So. 2d 420; 372 So.2d 560; 528 So. 2d 1084
Cited Statutes: La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3493
Date: 04/01/2013

The judicially created doctrine of contra non valentum may interrupt, or toll, a prescriptive period under four circumstances:

(1) where there was some legal cause which prevented the courts or their officers from taking cognizance of or acting on the plaintiff’s action; (2) where there was some condition coupled with a contract or connected with the proceedings which prevented the creditor from suing or acting; (3) Where the debtor himself has done some act effectually to prevent the creditor from availing himself of his cause of action; and (4) Where some cause of action is not known or reasonably knowable by the plaintiff, even though his ignorance is not induced by the defendant.


Wimberly v. Gatch, 635 So. 2d 206, 211 (La. 1994).  As explained by the Louisiana Supreme Court:

In the first three fact situations referred to above, a plaintiff’s cause of action has accrued, but the plaintiff is prevented from enforcing it by some reason external to his own will — such as the conduct of the defendant. In the fourth situation, the cause of action does not mature until it is known or is at least knowable. The equitable nature of the circumstances in each case determines whether “contra non valentum” is applicable.


Nathan v. Carter, 372 So.2d 560 (La.1979).  The defendant who makes the claim will bear the burden of proving the facts establishing contra non valentemNetherland v. Ethicon, Inc., 813 So.2d […]

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