Limitation period in civil matters

civil prescriptionThere are different types of prescriptions. In particular, it designates the length of time beyond which legal action, whether criminal or civil, is no longer admissible.

The law of 17 June 2008 modified the rules of prescription in civil matters. While the general rules of prescription are found in articles 2219 and following of the Civil Code, special provisions are found in other codes (Consumer Code, Building and Housing Code, Insurance Code...) or in special texts. For example, the prescription of bailiffs' costs is governed by the Law of 24 December 1987.

Without wishing to be exhaustive, we offer you a short summary of the main civil law provisions:
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It should be noted, however, that events are likely to interrupt the statute of limitations.


First of all, recognition of the creditor's right is interruptive of prescription.
Thus, an acknowledgement of the debt by the debtor or his agent is a cause of interruption of limitation. Thus, an interpellatory summons to pay, leading in the response to it to an acknowledgement of the debt, is a means of interrupting prescription in civil matters.
Similarly, the filing of a plan of over-indebtedness is a means of interrupting the limitation period. Indeed, the filing of a plan de facto entails de facto acknowledgement of the debt.
Likewise, the recognition of liability in respect of the ten-year guarantee is a cause for interrupting the limitation period.
Finally, the forced enforcement (or protective measure) of a court decision interrupts the ten-year limitation period for the enforcement of court decisions.

Moreover, the claim is interruptive of prescription.
Note that it is the date of service of the summons that interrupts the limitation period (or the statement of claim at the registry office); similarly, the service of the order for payment or the statement of claim is interruptive of limitation.
Note: even if the claim was brought before an incompetent court, it would interrupt the limitation period (Article 2241 of the Civil Code). On the other hand, if the interruptive effect lasts for the duration of the hearing, it will be null and void if the claim is rejected or dismissed.


Cases of postponement of the starting point of the limitation period are provided for in Articles 2233, 2234 and 2235 of the Civil Code. These include :
- claims subject to conditions precedent (postponement until the condition has been fulfilled)
- term receivables (deferral until maturity)
- the impossibility to act, due to law, agreement or force majeure

It also happens that the limitation period in civil matters is temporarily suspended, without erasing the period that has already elapsed.
This is the case, for example:
- the time limit for mediation (article 2238 of the civil code)
- the agreement of the debtor noted by the bailiff to take part in the small claims recovery procedure (Article L125-1 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Procedures)
- of the application for legal aid
- during the marriage or PACS, for actions between spouses or PACS partners