Legal Memorandum: Statute of Limitations in NJ

Issue: When does the statute of limitations in New Jersey begin to run?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Statute of limitations; Begins to run
Jurisdiction: New Jersey
Cited Cases: 155 N.J. 54; 327 N.J. Super. 119; 35 N.J. 434; 76 N.J. 284
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 09/01/2000

Under New Jersey law, a tort action generally accrues at the time of an injury caused by someone else.  Dunn v. Borough of Mountainside, 301 N.J. Super. 262, 273 (App. Div. 1997). The applicable statute of limitations, N.J.S. § 2A:14-2 (1987), begins to run when the injured party becomes aware of the injury and that the injury was caused by the fault of another.  Baird v. American Med. Optics, 155 N.J. 54, 66 (1998).

New Jersey courts have consistently recognized that

[l]imitation statutes purport to stimulate plaintiffs to act, punish plaintiffs’ negligence for inaction, and promote repose for defendants against stale claims where memories fade, witnesses are no longer available, and evidence is unattainable.  Allowing a plaintiff to voluntarily sleep on his rights permitting the expiration of the period of limitations causes “the pertinent considerations of individual justice as well as the broader considerations of repose, [to] coincide to bar [the] action.”

Knauf v. Elias, 327 N.J. Super. 119, 124 (App. Div. 1999) (citations omitted) (quoting Fernandi v. Strully, 35 N.J. 434, 438 (1961)).  Put differently, “the general purpose behind the statute is to stimulate litigants to pursue their causes of action diligently and to spare courts from litigation of stale claims.  The statute is meant to penalize dilatoriness and protect considerations of essential fairness to defendants.”  Younger v. Kracke, 236 N.J. Super. 595, 600 (Law Div. 1989).  It is unjust “to compel a person to defend a law […]

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