Lawsuit Deadlines: How long do I have to file a lawsuit in Tennessee?
Why are there statutes of limitation or lawsuit deadlines?
In Tennessee, there are lawsuit deadlines called “statutes of limitations,” so it is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you may need to file a lawsuit. If you wait too late, you may lose your ability to seek a remedy or recovery in court.
Statutes of limitation serve a number of purposes. They promote stability in personal and business relationships; they prevent undue delay in filing lawsuits; they help to avoid uncertainty in pursuing and defending old claims; and they help to ensure that evidence is preserved and not lost due to the lapse of time, fading memories, or death of witnesses or parties.
What time limit applies to my case?
It depends on what kind of case you have. Even our courts sometimes struggle with which statute of limitation applies. Generally, a court looks to the “gravamen” of the complaint to determine which statute of limitation applies. Think of the “gravamen” as the “real purpose” or the “main point” of a lawsuit.
The Tennessee Supreme Court, in Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises said that when determining the gravamen of a complaint in order to decide which statute of limitation applies, “a court must first consider the legal basis of the claim and then consider the type of injuries for which damages are sought. This analysis is necessarily fact-intensive and requires a careful examination of the allegations of the complaint as to each claim for the types of injuries asserted and damages sought.”
You may have multiple legal theories and claims available to you in your case, but those claims could have different statutes of limitation that will affect your ability to recover. Because this analysis can be difficult, and it is to your advantage to include as many viable claims for recovery as possible, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Statutes of Limitation in Tennessee for Common Claims
Below are statutes of limitation for common types of claims. There are others, so make sure and consult with an attorney to make sure you understand what time limit applies to your case.
- Personal injury or wrongful death – 1 year
- Property damage – 3 years
- Conversion – 3 years
- Breach of Contract – 6 years
- Fraud/Misrepresentation – 3 years
- Legal or medical malpractice – 1 year
- Consumer Protection Act claims – 1 year
- Sale of Goods Contract Claims – 4 years
- Slander (spoken defamation) – 6 months
- Libel (written defamation) – 1 year
There are certain exception to the statutes of limitation in Tennessee, but you should never assume an exception will apply to your case. For example, if a person took active steps to keep you from discovering an injury or claim (i.e., fraudulent concealment), then you may have additional time to file suit.
Courts will not allow you extra time to file suit simply because you did not know the applicable statute of limitation, or because you suffered an injury but didn’t find out the full facts or extent of your damage until later in time. Consult with an attorney as soon as you think you have a claim.
Don’t Lose Your Ability to Recover. Call us today.
Statutes of limitations and lawsuit deadlines can kill your case before it even starts. If you think you may have a legal claim against someone, please call us today at 901-372-5003 or email us here. Don’t wait too late and lose your ability to file suit or recover damages. Let the attorneys of Patterson Bray help you today.