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Fear and Loathing: The Application of Nullum Tempus to Municipalities

The legal doctrines of nullum tempus occurrit regi (“no time runs against the king”) and nullum tempus occurrit reipublicae (“time does not run against the state”) jointly stand for the proposition that the sovereign is not subject to ordinary time limitations -such as statues of limitation and repose and laches – that operate to time bar untimely lawsuits brought by private litigants. For those jurisdictions that apply nullum tempus, limitation periods do not apply to the state and, as a result, the state can sue a contractor or designer ten, fifteen or twenty years after project completion.  As unfair or inequitable as the application of the doctrine may be, that is the rule of law in many jurisdictions.

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