Todd W. Elliott*

*Passed the Bar
in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
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You have a 4 year period to sue for breach of contract, 2 years for negligence, and 1 year for defamation, and 6 months to give formal notice to a government entity of your intention to sue.

You must sue the correct party within the limitation period, meaning, if your dispute is with a business that is incorporated, you must sue the corporation, not its individual owner. Likewise, if the business is not incorporated, you must sue the owners, not merely the company name.

Be careful about the date the actual date of the statute of limitation. If you merely send a letter or making a claim in the small claims court (in Pennsylvania known as Magisterial District Court), that's not enough. You have met the requirements at law when you have filed your civil Complaint in the county department of court records (not the magistrate court) delivered the Complaint to the Sheriff for service of process.

For example, if you file a breach of contract case (4 year statute) in the Magisterial District Court on a claim three years and eleven months old, and you were not able to get service of process on the defendant within the four years, you will be precluded form maintaining your claim if the defendant claimed that he or she has the protection of the statute of limitations. However, the same is not true, if you had filed in the Court of Common Pleas. There, as long as the Complaint is filed before the end of the four year period and service has been attempted, the defendant cannot claim the protection under the statute of limitations.
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