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Tolling and the discovery rule

Many jurisdictions toll or suspend the limitation period under certain circumstances such as if the aggrieved party (plaintiff) was a minor or filed a bankruptcy proceeding. In those instances, the running of limitations is tolled, or paused, until the condition ends. Equitable tolling may also be applied if an individual may intimidate a plaintiff into not reporting or has been promised a suspended period.

The statute of limitations may begin when the harmful event, such as fraud or injury, occurs or when it is discovered. The US Supreme Court has described the “standard rule” of when the time begins as “when the plaintiff has a complete and present cause of action.” The rule has existed since the 1830s A “discovery rule” applies in other cases (including medical malpractice), or a similar effect may be applied by tolling.

As discussed in Wolk v. Olson, the discovery rule does not apply to mass media such as newspapers and the Internet; the statute of limitations begins to run at the date of publication. In 2013, the US Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled in Gabelli v. SEC that the discovery rule does not apply to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission‘s investment-advisor-fraud lawsuits since one of the purposes of the agency is to root out fraud.[14]

In private civil matters, the limitations period may generally be shortened or lengthened by agreement of the parties. Under the Uniform Commercial Code, the parties to a contract for sale of goods may reduce the limitations period to one year but not extend it.

Limitation periods that are known as laches may apply in situations of equity; a judge will not issue an injunction if the requesting party waited too long to ask for it. Such periods are subject to broad judicial discretion.

For US military cases, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) states that all charges except those facing court-martial on a capital charge have a five-year statute of limitations. If the charges are dropped in all UCMJ proceedings except those headed for general court-martial, they may be reinstated for six months after which the statute of limitations has run out.