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  • Kyle Persaud

How Much Time Do I Have to Bring a Civil Lawsuit?

Updated: Jan 18

In Oklahoma, there is a law called the “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations says that there is a time limit for when you may file a lawsuit. This time limit varies depending on which type of case you are filing. The statute of limitations in Oklahoma is as follows:


For Recovery of Real Property


Generally, you must bring the suit within fifteen years. However, there are the following exceptions:


  • If the property was sold on execution, or if a court order partitioned the property, or if a court distributed the property in probate proceedings, you must bring the lawsuit:

o Within five years after the deed was recorded in the county clerk’s office

o If the court conducted partition proceedings, and the property was never sold pursuant to these partition proceedings, you must bring the suit within five years after the court entered judgment

o If the court distributed the property in probate proceedings, you must bring the suit within five years after the recording of the probate decree in the county clerk’s office.

  • If executors, administrators, or a guardian sold the property under a court order, you must bring the suit within five years after the deed was recorded in the county clerk’s office.

  • If the property was sold at a tax sale, you must bring the suit within five years after the tax deed was recorded in the county clerk’s office. However, if the property was tax exempt under an act of the U.S. Congress, you may bring the lawsuit at any time.

  • You must bring an action for forcible entry and detainer within two years.


Contract Cases


  • If the contract was in writing, you must bring the suit five years after the suit accrued.

  • If the contract was not in writing, you must bring the suit within three years after the action accrued.

  • If the debtor has paid part of the amount, or if the debtor has signed a written promise to pay the debt, then the partial payment, or the signed writing, extends the statute of limitations. For example: Suppose a contract was entered in 1989. Then, the debtor made a partial payment in 2001. If the statute of limitations was five years, then the creditor may file suit within five years after the most recent payment was made in 2001. To see a court case explaining this principle, click here.


Tort Lawsuits


Generally, you must bring a tort suit within two years after the cause accrued. The following exceptions apply:


  • If you sue on grounds of fraud, the action is deemed to have accrued when you discover the fraud.

  • If you sue for libel, slander, assault, battery, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, or on a penalty for forfeiture, you must bring suit within one year.

  • If you sue on an official bond or undertaking of an executor, administrator, guardian, sheriff, or any other officer, you must bring the suit within five years.

  • If you sue for injuries suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse or incest, you must bring the suit before your forty-fifth birthday. If the person who committed the abuse was employed by an institution or other legal entity, or if you and the abuser were engaged in an activity over which the institution or legal entity had some control, you must sue the legal entity within two years. However, the time limit for suing the institution of legal entity is tolled until your eighteenth birthday.

  • If you sue for damages based on criminal actions, and the defendant is incarcerated, you may bring the lawsuit at any time while the defendant is incarcerated, or within five years after he is released.

  • If you are an inmate, and you sue based on facts that occurred while you were in custody, you must bring the suit within one year after the cause of action accrued.


Persons under a “Legal Disability”


  • For a real estate action: If you were under a “legal disability” when a real estate action “accrues” you must bring your lawsuit within two years after the disability is removed.

  • For an action that is not a real estate action: You must bring the action within one year after the disability is removed.

  • For a medical malpractice suit: For an injury to a child under twelve, the minor’s parent must bring the suit within seven years after the infliction of the injury. A minor twelve or older must bring the suit within one year after becoming an adult, but not less than two years after the infliction of the injury. For an injury to a person adjudged mentally incompetent, the incompetent’s guardian must bring the suit within seven years after the infliction of the injury. If the person was incompetent, but a court has judged him competent, the person must bring the suit within one year after the adjudication of his competency, but not less than two years after the date of the infliction of the injury.


Special circumstances


  • If the person to be sued is out of state or has concealed himself, the statute of limitations does not run until the person comes into the state, or removes himself from concealment. However, if the law allows a court to obtain jurisdiction over him if he is served out of state, or if he may be served by serving a government official, or if he may be served by publication, the statute of limitations runs while he is out of state or has concealed himself.

  • If you sue someone within the statute of limitations, and you win at trial, and an appeals court reversed the trial court, you may sue again within one year after the appeals court’s decision, even if the original statute of limitations has expired.

  • If you sue someone, and a court dismisses your suit for a reason other than “on the merits”, you may sue again within one year after the court dismissed your suit, even if the statute of limitations has expired. However, if the court dismisses your suit “on the merits”, you generally may never file the suit again. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “on the merits” as “where a decision of the court has been based on presented facts and not technical legal practice.”


When does a cause of action “accrue”?


This is not an easy question to answer. The facts vary from case to case. Not surprisingly, in many court cases, the plaintiffs and the defendants will disagree on when a cause of action “accrued”, and this is one of the major issues that the lawyers argue over in the case. Ultimately, the judge will make any decision as to when the cause of action “accrued.” In Brown v. Creek County, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that “the cause of action accrues when a litigant first could have maintained his action” and that accrual "means to become a present and enforceable demand."


Has your statute of limitations expired?


If you want to file a lawsuit, and you are wondering whether the statute of limitations has expired, the Persaud Law Office may be able to tell you whether it has expired. Even if you think the statute of limitations has expired, we may be able to find a way to file your lawsuit. If you need help with this issue, contact us today.

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