If you have a valid legal claim against someone, you must file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitation period – otherwise, you risk having your lawsuit dismissed. States prescribe different limitation periods for different types of claims. Washington state divides its statutes of limitations in its Revised Code according to years, rather than claims.
The Washington Revised Code does not specifically address promissory notes in its statute of limitations. However, a promissory note is a written promise to repay. Typically, the note contains the total amount owed, the number of payments required and any interest that accrues; both the debtor and creditor generally sign it. Promissory notes are contractual in nature. Because promissory notes are written, contractual documents, the applicable statute of limitations in Washington is the one that handles written contracts.
The RCW sets a six-year statute of limitation for written contracts or written agreements. In general, the creditor must file a lawsuit to recover for money owed under a promissory note within six years after the debtor stops paying on the debt or otherwise breaches his agreement. In some cases, the time period may be extended because some event has caused it to “toll” or delay.
Certain facts and circumstances cause the statute of limitation to stop for a period. According to the Free Dictionary, legal disability – such as being physically unable to make decisions or otherwise act – can toll the statute of limitation. With regard to an action for breach of a promissory note in Washington, if the creditor was physically incapacitated due to illness or disability, the limitation period may extend beyond the six years. For example, assume that in 2006, the debtor breached his agreement under a valid promissory note. The creditor would have until 2012 to file a lawsuit. From 2008 until 2012, the creditor was in a coma, and the limitation period tolled. In 2012, the creditor regained consciousness; he must now bring the action by 2017.
The statute of limitation is a defense available to claims; the court will not force a defendant to assert that defense. This means that the statute by itself will not prevent a plaintiff from filing or otherwise bringing a lawsuit. A plaintiff in Washington could file a lawsuit for breach of a promissory note after the six-year statute of limitation has run. It then is up to the defendant to assert the statute of limitation defense; failure to do so could result in a waiver of the defense and the court can allow the action to proceed. Because statutes of limitation and promissory notes involve legal issues that depend on individual facts and circumstances, you should consult with an attorney before proceeding.