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Limitations on Actions in Iowa
Statutes of Limitations:
The Statutes of Limitations are statutory (law) limits on the length of time for pursuing a legal remedy for a wrong. The statute starts running at the time a cause of action accrues, which is ordinarily when the injury occurs but may be when the injury is discovered. Estate of Ryan v Heritage Trails Associates, Inc., 13/06-1343 (Iowa 2008). A statute of limitation limits the time in which a plaintiff may bring suit after the cause of action accrues, or the claim can be barred by an affirmative defense (unless an exception applies tolling (stopping) the running of the limit). Contracts can also shorten the statutory limitations. Iowa Code § 554.2725.
States have differing statutes of limitations, and you are cautioned that this information is only for Iowa. You are cautioned that you may need to review the statue of limitations for other states for actions in those states. For example, a specific state’s limitations may pertain to a debt, as opposed to Iowa’s limitations, if the debt originated in another state or you agreed in a contract to honor a specific state’s jurisdiction. As various exceptions apply, and even if the statute of limitations has run, tolling may have occurred, or another claim may be possible, this list cannot be determined to be definitive on your particular case and should not be construed as legal advice as to whether you can still file or defeat a particular lawsuit. Even in one state, there is not one statute of limitations, but actually several depending on the type of action. Iowa’s limitations are listed below by category. As laws may change, the subject is complex, and this website may not be up-to-date, please review the code sections to determine the latest information.
Courts do not favor statutes of limitations. When two interpretations of a limitations statute are possible, the interpretation which allows the litigant seeking relief a longer period is to be preferred. Orr v. Lewis Central School District, 298 NW 2d 256, 261 (Iowa 1980). It is also a settled principle that a statute of limitations should not be extended or applied to cases not clearly within the provisions of the statute. Sprung v. Rasmussen, 180 NW 2d 430, 433 (Iowa 1970).
Additionally, it is possible that an action may be construed in different legal ways to have differing legal limitations depending upon the way the petition is drafted. Thus, it is important that you discuss these issues with an attorney and not depend upon this listing as a final listing. Additionally, times can be tolled because of certain actions, and the time frame could be exceeded. This list is provided only as general guidance and may not pertain to your legal case.
Statutes of Repose :
Statutes of Repose are the maximum time frame to bring a legal action, typically dating from an act of the defendant. A statute of repose prevents an act from even accruing and extinguishes an action after a fixed period of time. Statutes of repose prevent an action, even if the statute of limitations has not yet been exceeded, if the statute of repose has been exceeded. For example, medical malpractice claims must be filed within 6 years of the act, even if the 2 year statute of limitations has not been exceeded (i.e. the negligent act was not discovered until 4 years after its occurrence). Iowa Code § 614.1(9)(a). Another statute of repose is a 20 year limit on claims involving the manufacture of aircraft, even if the design flaw or manufacturing defect is not discovered until later. Most product liability claims are barred (unless the disease was latent) if the claim is raised more than 15 years after the product is first purchased, leased, bailed, or installed for use or consumption unless warranted for a longer period of time. Iowa Code § 614.1(2A).
Categories of Limitations:
Injury to person :
General Injury to person or reputation: Claims founded on injuries to person or reputation, including injuries to relative rights, whether based on contract or tort, or for a statute penalty, within 2 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
Medical malpractice must be filed within 2 years of reasonable discovery of the act resulting in the injury. All actions though, must be filed within 6 years of the wrongful act or omission. Minors have special exceptions- must file suit within 2 years of the date of injury or by his/her 10th birthday, whichever is later. Iowa Code § 614.1.
Other professions: 2 years.
Personal injury: 2 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
Wrongful death: 2 years from date of death. Iowa Code § 614.1(2) .
Workers’ Compensation: Generally 2 years from the date of injury or date employee discovers or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should discover the nature, seriousness, and probable compensable character of his injury or disease. “ Orr v. Lewis Cent. Sch. Dist., 298 N.W.2d 256, 261 (Iowa 1980). The limitation is 3 years from date of the last payment of Iowa weekly benefits (if the notice of commencement has been properly filed). Depending upon the circumstances, there may be no time limit on further weekly benefits, if weekly benefits have been paid under Iowa law, and may be no time limit on claiming further medical benefits. However, an important limitation is that the employee must give notice to the employer of the workplace injury within 90 days of the injury to obtain benefits.
Fraud: 5 years from the date of injury or date injury should have been discovered. Iowa Code § 614.1(4). However the action shall not accrue until the fraud has been discovered. Iowa Code § 614.4.
Identity Theft: Iowa Code 714.16B (2009). Action does not accrue until theft discovered by aggrieved party. Iowa Code § 614.4A.
Slander/ Libel/ Defamation: 2 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
Product Liability: 15 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2A).
Intentional Torts: 2 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
Child Sexual Abuse: Victims must initiate a lawsuit within 4 years of discovery of injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse. Iowa Code § 614.8A . There is no parental immunity from the negligence claim of a child when a parent knows of and allows sexual abuse of child. Childhood sexual abuse applies to children under the age of 14.
Sexual abuse by a counselor, therapist, or school employee: 5 years after victim last treated by the counselor or therapist, or within 5 years of the date the victim was last enrolled in or attended the school. Iowa Code § 614.1(12).
Section 1983/1985 Claims: 2 years (see Municipal/State category below).
Personal Property Injury: 5 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(4).
Wages: Claims founded on wages or for a liability or penalty for failure to pay wages within 2 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(8).
Appeal of Assessor’s property assessment value: Appeal initial assessments to local boards of review by filing a written protest between April 16 and May 5 of each year. A property owner may protest an assessment for one or more of the following: assessment is not comparable to others with similar properties, property is assessed at more than its actual value, property is exempt from taxation, error in assessment, or assessment is fraudulent. The Property owner may appeal the protest to the Property Assessment Appeal Board if not satisfied with the local board of review’s decision, or file directly with the district court. If still dissatisfied with the Property Assessment Appeal Board, the decision may be appealed to the district court.
Quiet Title to Real Estate: 10 years after judgment or decree quieting title. Iowa Code § 614.1(7).
Seizure for forfeiture proceedings: 5 years from last date of conduct giving rise to forfeiture. Iowa Code § 809A.20. County attorney has to file forfeiture complaint within 90 days from date of seizure.
Secured interest in farm products: within 2 years from date of sale of farm products against the secured interest of the creditor. Iowa Code § 614.1(10).
Intentional Torts: 2 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(2).
Trespass or injury to property: 5 years. Iowa Code § 614.1(4). However the cause of action shall not be deemed to accrue until the trespass has been discovered by the party aggrieved. Iowa Code § 614.4.
Improvements to real property: 15 years after date on which occurred the act or omission of the defendant alleged in the action to have been the cause of the injury or death. However, this subsection does not bar an action against a person solely in the person’s capacity as an owner, occupant, or operator of an improvement to real property. Iowa Code § 614.1(11).
Claims to real estate after 1992: 10 years after date on which claim arose or first existed. Iowa Code § 614.17A, but does not apply to minors, those with mental illness or spousal dower rights. Iowa Code §§ 614.19, 20 .
Foreclosure on mortgage: 20 years after date on real estate mortgage, bond for deed, trust deed, or contract for conveyance unless less than 10 years have elapsed since maturity of instrument or debt, and 10 years from the expiration of the time of such extension have not yet expired. The date of maturity, when different than as appears by the record of the instrument, and the date of maturity of any extension of said indebtedness or part thereof, may be shown at any time prior to the expiration of the above periods of limitation by the holder of the debt or the owner or assignee of the instrument filing an extension agreement, duly acknowledged as the original instrument was required to be acknowledged, in the office of the recorder where the instrument is recorded. Iowa Code section 614.21.
Tax deed, guardian’s deed, executor’s deed, sheriff’s deed: On and after January 1, 1992, an action shall not be maintained to set aaside, cancel, annul, declare void or invalid, or to redeem from a tax deed, guardian's deed, executor's deed, administrator's deed, receiver's deed, assignee's deed, or sheriff's deed, if the deed has been recorded in the office of the recorder for more than ten years. Iowa Code § 614.22.
Reversion or Use Restrictions on Land: 21 years for action based upon claim arising or existing by reason of the provisions of any deed or conveyance or contract or will reserving or providing for any reversion, reverted interests or use restrictions, except for railroad property if reversion caused by property being abandoned. Iowa Code § 614.24.
Collection of Rents: If rent is prescribed in written contract then 10 years. If the rent is not written, then no collection allowed. All real estate transfers, rents, or transactions must be in writing to be enforceable in court.
Real Estate Transfer by Trustee : Not more than one year after date of recording of property. Iowa Code § 614.14. Spouse failing to join in conveyance of real property : 10 years form date of execution of instrument. Iowa Code § 614.15.
Consumer Credit: Sales or loans made pursuant to open end credit, two years from violation. Other consumer credit violations one year from due date of last scheduled payment of the agreement. Iowa Code 537.5201.
Contracts: Written (such as auto contracts, installment contracts): 10 years from breach. Iowa Code § 614. 1(5). Oral: 5 years from breach. Iowa Code § 614.1(4).
Negotiable Instruments. Accrual of cause of action against maker or acceptor- Time instrument, day after maturity; Demand instrument, upon date or if no date on date of issue. Against obligor, on or after date of maturity. Drawer or endorser upon demand following dishonor. Iowa Code § 554.3118 .
Promissory Notes: Can be 5 or 10 years. It depends upon whether the note can be considered a written contract or not. A Promissory Note is considered a contract. Where no writing (or series of writings chargeable to one party shows the existence of an obligation to another party (or facts from which the law will infer an obligation), any action urging an obligation between the parties is subject to the statute of limitations for actions founded on unwritten contracts. Lamb v. Withrow, 31 Iowa 164, 167-168 (1871). Usually the contract though is that the principal will indemnify the surety and is an unwritten contract and not action upon the note which is extinguished by payment and is subject to 5 years after payment of surety, even if surety pays debt after judgment. Encyclopedia of Iowa Law: Being a Plain Statement of the Law of Iowa Thus Far...., Ezra Christian Ebersole, 99:2061.
Demand Note: 10 years from date of note. Stebens v. Wilkinson, 249 Iowa 365, 87 N.W.2d 16,17 (Iowa 1957).
Open-ended Accounts (credit cards): 5 years from last charge, payment, or admission of debt in writing. Iowa Code § 614.5 .
Student loans: No limitation.
Public Bonds or Obligations: within 11 years of cancellation, transfer, redemption or replacement of the public bonds or obligations. Iowa Code § 614.1(13).
State Income Tax: A claim for a refund or a credit that has not been filed with the department within 3 years after the return upon which a refund or credit claimed became due, or within one year after the payment of the tax upon which a refund or credit is claimed was made, whichever time is the later, shall not be allowed. Iowa Code § 422.73(1). The State of Iowa can collect on an income tax liability for a period of 10 years from the date of assessment. If a tax lien is filed, it extends the collection statute at 10-year intervals.
County collection of taxes: No time limitation to collect delinquent real property taxes levied on or after April 1, 1992. Iowa Code § 614.1(14).
Against a Sheriff or other public officer for nonpayment of money collected on execution: 3 years from collection. Iowa Code § 614.1(3).
Judgments: 20 years if court of record (except for child support, spousal support, distribution of marital assets). Iowa Code § 614.1(6). 10 years if court not of record. Iowa Code § 614.1(5). Domestic and foreign judgments are for 10 years but are renewable during 9th year. Deficiency judgments on most residential foreclosures, and judgments on mortgages become essentially worthless 2 years from date of judgment. No actions upon judgment against defendant within 9 years without leave of the court for good cause and if the adverse party is a resident of the state. Iowa Code § 614.3.
Enforcement of Child Support Order: No statute of limitations to enforce a child support order after 7/1/1997. Prior to 7/1/1997, the statute of limitations is 20 years from date of each child support installment.
Establishment of Paternity: Child’s 19th birthday (age of majority plus 1 year).
Appeal of Termination of Parental Rights/ CINA: An appeal of a final order or judgment entered under Iowa Code Chapter 232 must be filed within 15 days of the final order or judgment. Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure 6.101(1).
Criminal Offenses : Iowa Code § 802.1, et. seq.
1st and 2nd degree murder: None. Iowa Code § 802.1.
Other murder: 3 yrs.
1st. 2nd, 3rd degree sex abuse committed on or with person under age 18: within 10 yrs after victim turns age 18. Iowa Code § 802.2 .
Other 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree sex abuse: 3 years if the identity of the accused is established through use of DNA profile. The limitation is tolled if the DNA profile has not yet identified a named individual. Iowa Code §§ 802.2, 802.10.
Incest with person under 18: within 10 years after victim turns 18.
Sexual exploitation by counselor, therapist, or school employee: 10 yrs after victim last reated by counsel or therapist, or within 10 years after victim was enrolled in or attended the school.unless victim under age 18 yrs, then 10 yrs after victim turns 18. Iowa Code § 802.2A.
Fraud or breach of fiduciary duty: extension up to 3 yrs. Iowa Code § 802.5.
Aggravated or Serious misdemeanor: 3 yrs. Iowa Code § 802.3.
Simple misdemeanor of violation of ordinances: 1 yr. Iowa Code §§ 802.4, 614.1(1).
OWI enhancements: other OWIs within the last 12 years are considered for enhancement of the offense.
Continuing crimes: accrues upon commission of last of acts. Iowa Code § 802.7.
New Indictment if defect on old: within 30 days after action to set aside or reverse. Iowa Code § 802.9.
Warrants: no statute of limitations since the statute of limitations measures the period before you are charged and a warrant results from a charge. Thus the statute of limitations may apply, but only to the charging for a crime, not for the length of time a warrant remains valid.
Appeals, New Trial, Post Conviction:
Appeal of final decision of trial court: Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the final decision or within 30 days of the trial court’s ruling on any rule 1.904(2) motion. Failure to meet the statutory time frame results in automatic rejection of the appeal. Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.5(2). Special times for CINA and termination (15 days normally). The Appellate Rules of Procedure have very specific timeframes for appellate actions. Failure to meet these guidelines may cause dismissal and loss of the appeal.
Termination of Parental Rights/CINA: A Notice of Appeal must be filed with the Clerk of Court within 15 days after the ruling.
Rule 1.904(2) motion for a new trial: Filed within 10 days of the filing of the district court’s decision. Iowa Rule Civ. P. 1.904(2).
Mental Health: A Notice of Appeal to District Court of a mental health commitment must be filed with the Clerk of Court within 10 days of the Magistrate's ruling.
Post conviction relief: Properly filed within 3 years of date of conviction or decision is final, or if appealed, from date the writ of procedendo is issued. Iowa Code §§ 822.3, 663A.3.. The three year limitation does not apply to a ground of fact or law that could not have been raised within the applicable time period.
Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court: 90 days to seek certiorari of Iowa Supreme Court decision.
Municipal Liability/ Sovereign Immunity: 2 years for claims against state, requires written notice to State Appeal Board within those 2 years. Suits against state of Iowa not barred, but notice of claim must be given in 2 years.
Tolling: Tolling is the stopping of the running of the statute of limitations for some statutory reason. Various statute of limitations may allow different reasons for tolling. Typical reasons for tolling include: age of minority, mental incompetence, bankruptcy (may toll due to the automatic stay until the bankruptcy is resolved or stay is lifted). For criminal offenses, the statute can be tolled due to the offender being out of the state’s jurisdiction or being a nonresident. Iowa Code § 802.6. There is a tolling of the limitation under Iowa Code § 802.3, if the DNA profile has not yet identified a named individual. Iowa Code § 802.10.
Minors: Except for medical malpractice, minors have one year from their 18th birthday to file suit. The action is tolled (stopping the running of the statute of limitations) during this period until the minor is age 18. Iowa Code 614.8.
Mental Illness: Except for penalties and foreclosures, times are extended for persons with mental illness so they have one year from and after termination of the disability to file a complaint in Chapter 216, to make a claim pursuant to chapter 669, or to commence an action. Iowa Code 614.8.
Debt Collection: Even though the statute of limitations has run on a debt, you are still legally responsible for the debt. However, the collector or creditor can no longer utilize the court system to collect the debt if the affirmative defense is used that the statute of limitations has run. Creditors can still file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run, and debt collectors can still try to collect a debt after the statute has run. If a suit has been filed, contact an attorney to answer with the proper defense. Do not ignore a court notice, just because a debt is time barred, or a default judgment will be issued and you will be liable for the judgment. A debt collector, however, cannot threaten to sue on a time barred account, but can request payment. Fair Debt Collection Act. You can still voluntarily pay the debt. Also, do not confuse the statute of limitations with the length of time a debt may be reported to a credit bureau. Debts can remain on your credit report for 7 years, even though the statute of limitations has run on legal remedies for the debt.
After the statute of limitations has run, never admit that you owe the debt, do not agree to pay the debt, and do not agree to send any money to the collector. These actions may restart the statute of limitations, so be careful what you say or write to the collector. Even a small payment may re-age the old debt. Be careful what you say, even stating that the debt is barred by the statute of limitations might re-age the debt. You may be better off to ignore a call on an old debt or write a letter saying that you don’t recognize the debt. Even if you waived the statute of limitations in some way, it may be better for the debtor to still raise the defense of the statute of limitations and have the collector prove to the court that you waived the limitations. In Iowa, in actions founded on contract, the action is revived by an admission in writing, signed by the party charged, that the debt is unpaid, or by a like new promise to pay the same. Iowa Code § 614.11.
Certain types of debts have different limitations, and some debts have no limitations. Be sure of the category of your debt and review the statute of limitations for your type of debt before you claim a defense based on the statute of limitations.
Comparative Negligence: In Iowa, the Plaintiff cannot recover if they are 51% or more responsible and damage is diminished by person’s percentage of fault.
Punitive damages: In Iowa, clear and convincing evidence is required that defendant acted with willful or wanton conduct to award punitive damages. Where plaintiff seeks punitive damages in action filed on or after July 1st, 1986, court shall instruct the jury :
1. Was defendant’s conduct willful and wanton, to be proven by clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence,
2. Was defendant’s conduct, specifically directed at plaintiff. If (1) and (2) both affirmative, all punitive findings go to plaintiff. If (1) affirmative and (2) negative, plaintiff recovers 25% of punitive findings and remaining 75% goes to state fund.
Interest rate: Interest except for future damages, accrues from date of commencement of action. Future damages accrues from date of judgment. Interest calculated as of the date of judgment at rate equal to the one-year treasury constant maturity published by the federal reserve in the H15 report settled immediately prior to the date of the judgment plus 2%. If interest is expressed in a contract, that interest rate is utilized not exceeding the maximum rate permitted. Iowa Code § 668.13 .
Bad Checks (civil penalty): Iowa Code § 554.3512 allows a surcharge of $30 if a notice is posted. Iowa Code § 625.22 allows for reasonable attorney fees for recovery. As a civil penalty against maker of check, draft or order which has been dishonored for lack of funds or credit, after having been presented twice, or because maker has no account with drawee, plaintiff shall recover total damages equaling 3 times the face value, but not exceeding more than $500 the face amount and awarded only if procedures in Iowa Code § 554.3513 are followed.
Selected Federal :
Habeas corpus: Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA): 1 year from date on which judgment became final by conclusion of direct review or expiration of the time for seeking such review, for filing federal habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The limitation is tolled, for a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2)).
There is no statute of limitations on the requirement to file a federal tax return. However, it is unlikely that the IRS will require more than the last 6 or 7 years of unfiled tax returns. If the tax return was prepared by the IRS, there is no statute of limitations, nor is there a limitation when a false tax return or a fraudulent tax return is filed with the intent to avoid any tax. Internal Revenue Code 6502(b)(3), 6501(c)(1).
Generally there are 3 years for tax return audit as the IRS is required to assess tax within 3 years after the tax return is filed. Internal Revenue Code 6502(a). No proceeding in court by the IRS for collection of any tax can begin after the expiration of 3 years. Income Tax Regulation 301.6501(a)-1(b). However, if the taxpayer understates income by more than 25%, the limitation extends to 6 years.
10 year limitation after IRS assessment for taxes for collection of taxes. Internal Revenue Code 6502(a)(1). Court proceedings must also be started by the IRS within the 10 year period. Income Tax Regulation 301.6502-1(a)(1). The 10 year limitation can be extended by agreement between the taxpayer and the IRS before the expiration of the 10 year period.
Taxpayer has 3 years from time of filing or 2 years from time tax was paid to IRS, whichever is later, to claim tax refund. Internal Revenue Code 6511(a).
A taxpayer may file a claim within 7 years if the tax refund pertains to a bad debt or in connection with a loss from a worthless security. Internal Revenue Code 6511(d)(1).
No limitation on claiming refund when IRS refund check returned to the IRS.
Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court: 90 days to seek certiorari of Iowa Supreme Court decision.