Code of the District of Columbia

Chapter 3. Limitation of Actions.


§ 12–301. Limitation of time for bringing actions.

[(a)] Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, actions for the following purposes may not be brought after the expiration of the period specified below from the time the right to maintain the action accrues:

(1) for the recovery of lands, tenements, or hereditaments— 15 years;

(2) for the recovery of personal property or damages for its unlawful detention— 3 years;

(3) for the recovery of damages for an injury to real or personal property— 3 years;

(4) for libel, slander, assault, battery, mayhem, wounding, malicious prosecution, false arrest or false imprisonment— 1 year;

(5) for a statutory penalty or forfeiture— 1 year;

(6) on an executor’s or administrator’s bond— 5 years; on any other bond or single bill, covenant, or other instrument under seal— 12 years;

(7) on a simple contract, express or implied— 3 years;

(8) for which a limitation is not otherwise specially prescribed— 3 years;

(9) for a violation of § 7-1201.01(11)— 1 year;

(10) for the recovery of damages for an injury to real property from toxic substances including products containing asbestos— 5 years from the date the injury is discovered or with reasonable diligence should have been discovered;

(11) for the recovery of damages arising out of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was less than 35 years of age— the date the victim attains the age of 40 years, or 5 years from when the victim knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act constituting sexual abuse, whichever is later;

(12) for the recovery of damages arising out of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was 35 years of age or older—5 years, or 5 years from when the victim knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act constituting sexual abuse, whichever is later.

[(b)] This section does not apply to actions for breach or contracts for sale governed by § 28:2-725, nor to actions brought by the District of Columbia government.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 510, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; Aug. 30, 1964, 78 Stat. 677, Pub. L. 88-509, § 2; Mar. 3, 1979, D.C. Law 2-136, § 805(c), 25 DCR 5055; Feb. 28, 1987, D.C. Law 6-202, § 3, 34 DCR 527; Apr. 30, 1988, D.C. Law 7-104, § 2(a), 35 DCR 147; Mar. 13, 2004, D.C. Law 15-105, § 99, 51 DCR 881; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-368, § 2, 56 DCR 1338; May 3, 2019, D.C. Law 22-311, § 3, 66 DCR 1398.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-301.

1973 Ed., § 12-301.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 8-634.10, § 12-308, and § 28-3905.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 15-105, in par. (9), substituted “§ 7-1201.01(11)” for “the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act of 1978 (D.C. Official Code, sec. 7-1201.01 et seq.)”.

L.C. Law 17-368 added par. (11).

Cross References

Adverse possession, limitation of actions, see § 16-3301.

Breach of contract for sale, commencement of action after breach, see § 28:2-725.

Common carrier, commencement of action against for injury or death of employee, see § 35-304.

Consumer protection procedures, limitation of actions, see § 28-3905.

Hospital lien, limitation of enforcement, see § 40-303.

Income tax, limitation upon assessment and collection, see § 47-1812.10.

Mechanics lien, limitation of enforcement action, see § 40-303.13.

Quo warranto, commencement of action for usurpation of office, see § 16-3548.

Return of property by Property Clerk, see § 5-119.06.

Subways and viaducts, absence of limitation on action to recover part of costs, see § 9-1201.15.

Unpaid wages or liquidated damages, limitation of actions, see § 32-1013.

Usury, commencement of action, see § 28-3304.

Viaduct costs, absence of limitation on recovery action, see § 9-315.

Wrongful death actions, limitation of actions, see § 16-2702.

Applicability

Section 5(a)(1) of D.C. Law 22-311 provided that the amendments made to this section by D.C. Law 22-311 shall apply to an action that accrues before, on, or after May 3, 2019, unless the statute of limitations for the action expired before May 3, 2019.

Section 5(a)(2) of D.C. Law 22-311 provided that notwithstanding any other provision of law, a claim for the recovery of damages that would be time-barred under this section before May 3, 2019, but that would not be time-barred under the amendments made to this section by D.C. Law 22-311, is revived and, in that case, a cause of action may be commenced within 2 years after May 3, 2019.


§ 12–302. Disability of plaintiff.

(a) Except as provided by subsection (b) of this section, when a person entitled to maintain an action is, at the time the right of action accrues:

(1) under 18 years of age; or

(2) non compos mentis; or

(3) imprisoned —

he or his proper representative may bring action within the time limited after the disability is removed.

(b) When a person entitled to maintain an action for the recovery of lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or upon an instrument under seal, is under any of the disabilities specified by subsection (a) of this section at the time the right of action accrues, he or his proper representative, except where otherwise specified herein, may bring the action within 5 years after the disability is removed, and not thereafter.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 510, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; Mar. 16, 1978, D.C. Law 2-61, § 2, 24 DCR 6011.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-302.

1973 Ed., § 12-302.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 12-308.


§ 12–303. Absence or concealment of defendant.

(a) When a person who is a resident of the District of Columbia is out of the District or has absconded or concealed himself at the time a cause of action accrues against him, the period limited for the bringing of the action does not begin to run until he comes into the District or while he is so absconded or concealed.

(b) When such a person absconds or conceals himself after the cause of action accrues, the time of his absence or concealment may not be computed as a part of the period within which the action must be brought.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 511, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-303.

1973 Ed., § 12-303.


§ 12–304. Actions stayed by court or statute.

When the bringing of an action is stayed by an injunction or other order of a court of justice, or by statutory prohibition, the time of the stay may not be computed as a part of the period within which the action must be brought.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 511, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-304.

1973 Ed., § 12-304.


§ 12–305. Actions against decedents’ estates.

In an action against the estate of a deceased person, the interval, not exceeding two years, between the death of the deceased and 6 months after the date of the first publication of notice of the appointment of a personal representative under section 20-704 may not be computed as a part of the period within which the action must be brought.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 511, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; June 24, 1980, D.C. Law 3-72, § 202(a), 27 DCR 2155.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-305.

1973 Ed., § 12-305.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 12-308.


§ 12–306. Directions as to debts in a will. [Repealed]

Repealed.


(June 24, 1980, D.C. Law 3-72, § 202(b), 27 DCR 2155.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-306.


§ 12–307. Foreign judgments.

An action upon a judgment or decree rendered in a State, territory, commonwealth or possession of the United States or in a foreign country is barred if by the laws of that jurisdiction, the action would there be barred and the judgment or decree would be incapable of being otherwise enforced there.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 511, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-307.

1973 Ed., § 12-307.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 12-308.


§ 12–308. Actions by the United States.

Sections 12-301 , 12-302 , 12-305 , and 12-307 do not apply to an action in which the United States is the real and not merely the nominal plaintiff.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 511, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-308.

1973 Ed., § 12-308.


§ 12–309. Actions against District of Columbia for unliquidated damages; time for notice.

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, an action may not be maintained against the District of Columbia for unliquidated damages to person or property unless, within six months after the injury or damage was sustained, the claimant, his agent, or attorney has given notice in writing to the Mayor of the District of Columbia of the approximate time, place, cause, and circumstances of the injury or damage. A report in writing by the Metropolitan Police Department, in regular course of duty, is a sufficient notice under this section.

(b) This section shall not apply to claims brought under § 2-1403.16 or § 1-615.54.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 511, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 551, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 141(2); Apr. 30, 1988, D.C. Law 7-104, § 2(b), 35 DCR 147; May 2, 2015, D.C. Law 20-266, § 4, 62 DCR 1540.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-309.

1973 Ed., § 12-309.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-615.54, § 2-413, and § 2-424.

Effect of Amendments

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-266 redesignated the existing text as (a); and added (b).

Cross References

Claims against District, see §§ 2-401 to 2-406.

Governmental immunity for employee’s operation of vehicles, actions brought in conformance with this section, see § 2-413.

Liability of District employees, see §§ 2-411 to 2-416.

Merit system grievance proceedings, limitation of actions, see § 1-615.54.

Unjust imprisonment, application of this section, see § 2-424.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3 of District of Columbia Employee Non-Liability and Notice of Claim Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-499, October 23, 2002, 49 DCR 10022).

Mayor's Orders

Delegation of Duty to Receive Notice under D.C. Official Code § 12-309, see Mayor’s Order 2004-10, January 20, 2004 ( 51 DCR 1455).

Handling of Legal Correspondence, see Mayor’s Order 2004-77, May 14, 2004 ( 51 DCR 5280).

Delegation of Authority

Delegation of Duty to Receive Notice Under D.C. Code § 12-309, see Mayor’s Order 2000-167, November 2, 2000 ( 47 DCR 9533).


§ 12–310. Actions arising out of death or injury caused by defective or unsafe improvements to real property.

(a)(1) Except as provided in subsection (b), any action —

(A) to recover damages for —

(i) personal injury,

(ii) injury to real or personal property, or

(iii) wrongful death,

resulting from the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property, and

(B) for contribution or indemnity which is brought as a result of such injury or death, shall be barred unless in the case where injury is the basis of such action, such injury occurs within the ten-year period beginning on the date the improvement was substantially completed, or in the case where death is the basis of such action, either such death or the injury resulting in such death occurs within such ten-year period.

(2) For purposes of this subsection, an improvement to real property shall be considered substantially completed when —

(A) it is first used, or

(B) it is first available for use after having been completed in accordance with the contract or agreement covering the improvement, including any agreed changes to the contract or agreement, whichever occurs first.

(b) The limitation of actions prescribed in subsection (a) shall not apply to —

(1) any action based on a contract, express or implied, or

(2) any action brought against the person who, at the time the defective or unsafe condition of the improvement to real property caused injury or death, was the owner of or in actual possession or control of such real property, or

(3) any manufacturer or supplier of any equipment or machinery or other articles installed in a structure upon real property, or

(4) any action brought by the District of Columbia government.


(Oct. 27, 1972, 86 Stat. 1275, Pub. L. 92-579, § 1(a); Feb. 28, 1987, D.C. Law 6-202, § 4, 34 DCR 527.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-310.

1973 Ed., § 12-310.

Cross References

Negligence causing death, limitation of actions, see § 16-2702.


§ 12–311. Actions arising out of death or injury caused by exposure to asbestos.

(a) In any civil action for injury or illness based upon exposure to asbestos, the time for the commencement of the action shall be the later of the following:

(1) Within one year after the date the plaintiff first suffered disability;

(2) Within one year after the date the plaintiff either knew, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that the disability was caused or contributed to by the exposure; or

(3) Three years from the time the right to maintain the action accrues.

(b) “Disability” as used in subsection (a) of this section means the loss of time from work as a result of the exposure that precludes the performance of the employee’s regular occupation.

(c) In an action for the wrongful death of any plaintiff’s decedent, based upon exposure to asbestos, the time for commencement of an action shall be the later of the following:

(1) Within 2 years from the date of the death of the plaintiff’s decedent; or

(2) Within 2 years from the date the plaintiff first knew, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that the death was caused or contributed to by the exposure.


(Feb. 28, 1987, D.C. Law 6-202, § 5, 34 DCR 527; June 3, 2011, D.C. Law 18-377, § 3, 58 DCR 1174; Oct. 22, 2012, D.C. Law 19-177, § 2, 59 DCR 9353.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 12-311.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 18-377, in subsec. (a), deleted “or” from the end of par. (1), substituted “; or” for a period the end of par. (2), and added par. (3).

The 2012 amendment by D.C. Law 19-177 substituted “2 years” for “one year” in (c)(1) and (c)(2).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Asbestos Statute of Limitations Clarification Emergency Act of 2010 (D.C. Act 18-585, October 20, 2010, 57 DCR 10134).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 503 of Public Safety Legislation Sixty-Day Layover Emergency Amendment Act of 2010 (D.C. Act 18-693, January 18, 2011, 58 DCR 640).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 503 of Public Safety Legislation Sixty-Day Layover Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2011 (D.C. Act 19-45, April 20, 2011, 58 DCR 3701).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2 of D.C. Law 18-297 added subsec. (d) to read as follows:

“(d) A plaintiff in an asbestos-injury action shall have the longer of the limitation period prescribed by subsection (a) of this section or the limitation period prescribed by § 12-301(8).”.

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 18-297 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.