Civil Litigation FAQ
The Statute of Limitations sets the time period – from a particular act – within which a legal action must be initiated. If you are a criminal or civil defendant, the SOL can serve to end the case (and eliminate your problem) at its infancy.
If you are looking to bring criminal charges against someone or to sue for civil damages, the SOL may prevent you from doing so if you wait too long.
Generally speaking, most state criminal charges have a SOL of 6 years (murder and certain types of sexual assault have no SOL, while some violent crimes have a SOL of 10 years).
Civil SOL vary too widely to set forth here, but the most commonly utilized are 3 years for personal injury actions, 4 years for consumer protection actions and 6 years for breach of contract.
To complicate matters further, the SOL can be “tolled”, or put on pause, for certain periods of time, such as when a criminal defendant flees the jurisdiction or a civil plaintiff has not yet discovered the harmful event.
As with most areas of the law, the Statute of Limitations is not as simple as it seems and it is important to consult with an attorney to determine how this issue may affect your case.
A tort is simply a term that describes an act or omission that causes injury or harm to another and may allow the court to impose civil liability.
Generally, torts fall into three categories: intentional torts (e.g., assault and battery); negligence (e.g., causing an accident by failing to obey traffic rules); and strict liability torts (e.g., making and selling defective products or dog bites).
Generally, the defendant must serve an answer to a Complaint within twenty (20) days after service of the summons and Complaint. Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1).
An answer to a Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint must be served within twenty days as well.
How you answer a complaint will have an effect on the entire case, so we strongly recommend consulting an attorney!
In responding to any pleading (most often an Answer to a Complaint), the answer must raise the following affirmative defenses or they will be waived:
- accord and satisfaction;
- arbitration and award;
- assumption of risk;
- contributory negligence;
- discharge in bankruptcy;
- failure of consideration;
- injury by fellow servant;
- res judicata;
- statute of frauds;
- statute of limitations;
- waiver; and
- any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.
Mass. R. Civ. P. 8(c). It may not seem like it, but this is a crucial stage of the case and mistakes here will cost you. Call an attorney.
Don't ignore it!
If no responsive pleading is timely filed to a Complaint, Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint, a default may be requested pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Default Judgment may be obtained by filing appropriate Affidavits with the Clerk of Court if the amount sought is for a sum certain. Otherwise, judgment may be obtained following a hearing to determine damages. Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(b).