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Recognition of the debt after the expiry of the limitation period

The limitation period for claims related to running a business is 3 years, and in the case of some contracts it may be even shorter. However, the Civil Code provides for the institution of interruption of the limitation period, e.g. in the event of recognition of a debt. Recognition is a unilateral statement of knowledge (sometimes combined with a statement of will) that can take any form, including implied. The payment towards the due claim (when individualizing it, e.g. by providing the invoice number in the transfer title) may therefore constitute recognition of the debt indirectly. But what if the debtor recognizes his debt after the expiry of the limitation period?

The issue was discussed by the Court of Appeal in Warsaw, which in its judgment of November 7, 2007, file ref. VI ACa 826/07, stated that the declaration on recognizing the debt, submitted after the expiry of the limitation period, does not have any legal effects, including it does not cause the limitation period to run anew. After all, it is not possible to interrupr the running of a deadline that has already passed. As a consequence, it may be concluded that the creditor is not able to effectively recover the debt in court in such a situation.

In connection with the above, the question arises whether the creditor has any chance to claim payment of the dept recognized after the expiry of the limitation period. The answer is yes. Pursuant to Art. 117 § 2 of the Civil Code, after the expiry of the limitation period, the person against whom the claim is entitled may refrain from satisfying it, unless he renounces the use of the statute of limitations. A waiver, like an acknowledgment of debt, can take any form. So we can come across a situation in which the recognition of the debt (declaration of knowledge) is also a waiver of the statute of limitations (declaration of will). An example is the recognition of the debt under the settlement (judgment of the Court of Appeal in Lublin of December 4, 2014, file ref. I ACa 248/14). However, this principle should be treated with great caution, avoiding automatism. According to the position of some jurisprudence, the recognition of a debt may be treated as a waiver of the statute of limitations only if it appears from the content or circumstances in which the declaration was made that this was the real will of the debtor (judgments of the Supreme Court of 5 June 2002, ref. IV CKN 1013/00; of March 19, 2002, IV CKN 917/00; of February 16, 2012, III CSK 208/11).

In the opinion of the Supreme Court (judgment of the Supreme Court of July 21, 2004, ref. V CK 620/03), a sign of waiver of the statute of limitations will be, inter alia, undertaking negotiations regarding debt repayment - dividing the debt into installments, or concluding a court or out-of-court settlement. However, the repayment of part of the debt itself will not necessarily be considered a willingness to waive the allegation in question, especially if it does not involve any advantage for the debtor. The court will have to analyze the circumstances of a specific case each time and determine what interpretation is supported by the circumstances of a given case.

Proving our statements in court in this respect (regardless of whether we are a debtor or a creditor) may require a lot of experience and knowledge of procedural and substantive law. Therefore, it is worth considering using the help of a law office, which will first assess the chances of success in our case and then take care of professional representation.

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