Oklahoma's Statute Of Limitations For Contracts

The statute of limitation under 12 O.S. § 95 requires that a lawsuit for breach of contract must be brought within five years if the claim arises from a written contract and within three years if the dispute comes from a contract not reduced to writing.  The time in which to file the lawsuit starts at the completion of the contract.  In the case of Kirby v. Jean's Plumbing Heat & Air, 2009 OK 65, the contract for installation of a new sewage pipeline was completed in 1996.  The homeowner did not file his breach of contract suit until eleven years later in 2007.  The statute of limitations had clearly expired and Oklahoma declined to apply the "discovery rule" to suits based upon breach of contract in construction cases. 

One reason for the court's refusal to extend the "discovery rule" to construction cases is that to do so would defeat the intention of the legislature with the statute of repose.  The court, in upholding the intention of the legislature, has determined there should be some outside limit on when a lawsuit can be brought regardless of the circumstances.

What Is A Statute Of Repose?

A statute of repose as well as a statute of limitation is a legislative means of ending or terminating the time in which a lawsuit may be brought.  "In practical terms, a statute of repose marks the outer time boundary for judicial enforcement of a substantive right whereas a statute of limitation interposes itself only procedurally to bar solely the remedy after a substantive right has vested and a claim accrued."  Kirby v. Jean's Plumbing Heat & Air, 2009 OK 65.

Many people are more familiar with statutes of limitation which bar a person from bringing a lawsuit after a certain period of time has expired.  Typically, statutes of limitation are more commonly thought about in situations in which there is a car accident or other negligent act committed.  The time in which to file the suit starts upon learning about the damages resulting from the negligent act.  The damaged party has a certain period in which to file a lawsuit or forever lose the right to do so.

In contrast, a statute of repose marks the absolute end of any available lawsuit.  The courts have allowed statutes of limitation to be tolled or extended because of the "discovery rule".  The discovery rule is simply the device used to trigger the time in which to file a lawsuit after learning about the damage.  Once a person learns about the damage, the lawsuit must be timely filed or the right to judicial relief is surrendered.  With a statute of repose, it doesn't matter if a person learns about the damage after the deadline or not.  The statute of repose bars the lawsuit simply because of the passage of time.

There are some other technical distinctions.  The statute of limitation does not bar the filing of the lawsuit but rather terminates the remedy available or the relief the court may allow.  The statute of repose blocks the entire lawsuit and prohibits it from going forward.

Homeowners' Insurers Must Furnish Blank Proof Of Loss Forms Within 60 Days

The purpose of a sworn proof of loss is to document the amount claimed is accurate and a genuine loss. If it later turns out the claim was inflated or fraudulent, the sworn statement can be used by a prosecutor for insurance fraud in a criminal case or denial of the claim for insurance for fraud in Oklahoma.

According to Oklahoma insurance law attorneys, there is a wide and varied practice in the insurance industry concerning the requirement for a signed, sworn proof of loss before payment of an insurance claim.  Some insurers insist on a signed proof of loss and others could care less.

Oklahoma law provides an insurer cannot assert the failure of the insured to tender a proof of loss as a defense to payment of the homeowners' claim unless the insurance company has furnished the policy holder with two blank proof of loss forms and warned the insured that the proof of loss must be tendered to the insurer within 60 days from the date of receipt of the blank forms. An insurer adjusting a loss under a fire policy can waive the requirement for a signed proof of loss if it doesn't make demand within a suitable time.

Insurers sometimes overlook the requirement to submit two blank proof of loss forms. Many Oklahoma insurance defense lawyers are critical of the requirement.  The reason for providing two forms appears to be a carryover from many years ago when scanners, copiers, and other means of reproduction were not as common and convenient. The second blank form was so the insured would have a copy for their own records.  Insurance attorneys in Oklahoma see the requirement for submission of duplicate blank forms as a requirement that no longer meets any real need of the insured.