How do you determine if the statute of limitations has run?

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2011

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How do you determine if the statute of limitations has run?

My husband just heard from a collection agency/attorney yesterday about a bill from 7 years ago. He did not know he had this at all and it was a shock to both of us. It is so old that my husband isn’t even 100%sure it is his. I looked at public records and have found that small claim was started. There has been no contact at all until yesterday yet this company says they have called and mailed letters repeatedly that we have not received. Does the statute of limitations apply here? Will we have to pay this bill that we are not sure belongs to my husband?

Asked on September 15, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Indiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) You don't have to pay a debt that is not legally yours. If you are sued--the only way the debt collector can get the money if you don't voluntarily pay him--he'll have to produce evidence showing its your debt, and you and your husband will be able to produce your own evidence and testimony to dispute that. The burden of proof is on the one suing, so if you are sued, they'd need to prove their case by at least fractionally more than equal evidence (i.e. if all things are equal, you win).

2) The statute of limitions is different for every cause of action, so you need to reference what type of act allegedly gives rise to this action to know what the statute is. The statute begins running from when you late pay or default on the debt. Hypothetically, say that you had a service agreement with someone that you did not pay. I believe the IN SOL is 10 years for in that case, you could be sued up to 10 years after you defaulted on the obligation. Once the SOL has passed, there is no way to enforce the debt.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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