The statute of limitations is a legal principle that establishes a designated period of time within which lawsuits must be filed in court. Florida, like other states, has provided designated limitations periods for the filing of various legal causes of action, for example, negligence, fraud and breach of contract.
A promissory note is a written contract in which the promissor/debtor agrees to pay back to the promissee/lender the principal amount loaned plus specified interest. Many promissory notes contain a repayment schedule as well as a provision that the entire amount is due and payable upon demand if the promissor misses one of the scheduled payments. In most cases, upon the occurrence of the event that triggers a default, the promissee will notify the promissor in writing that he has breached the terms of the contract.
Florida Statute Of Limitations
Since a promissory note is a binding legal agreement, the applicable statute of limitations period would be that provided by Florida law for breach of contract actions. §95.11(2)(b) of the Florida Code establishes a five-year statute of limitations period for actions to recover on a written contract. The statute of limitations period begins on the date the cause of action accrued, which for a promissory note would be the date on which the contract was breached. The statute of limitations period ends on the date a plaintiff files his action in court.
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Significance of "Time-Barred"
An action by a plaintiff for breach of the terms and conditions of a promissory note that is filed in court beyond the five-year statute of limitations period is characterized as "time-barred" and is subject to dismissal by the court.
Effect of the Defense Raised
A lawsuit filed in a Florida court that is beyond the five-year limitations period established for breach of promissory note actions is tolled by operation of the statute of limitations. If the statute of limitations defense is timely and properly raised by a defendant, the court must dismiss the lawsuit. A plaintiff whose promissory note action is dismissed has no further legal recourse against the defendant.
Failure to Raise the Defense
It is incumbent upon a defendant who is sued for breach of the terms of a promissory note to affirmatively raise the statute of limitations defense to the action. The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure require a defendant to raise the statute of limitations defense in his Answer to the defendant's Complaint when it is filed in court. If a defendant does not properly and timely raise the statute of limitations issue, he will be deemed to have waived it.