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in the United States
Most courts hold that statutes of repose are a broader category than statutes of limitation. Statutes of repose differ from statutes of limitation in that the deadlines imposed by statutes of repose are enforced much more strictly. The operation of statutes of limitation can be avoided or tolled by a number of equitable factors, such as the minority of the injured party, or attempts by a tortfeasor to conceal evidence of responsibility. Some statutes of limitation only begin to run when the injury complained of is discovered. All statutes of limitation are statutes of repose, but some statutes of repose operate differently from statutes of limitation.
A statute of repose may impose a much stricter deadline than a statute of limitation. A statute of repose, in contrast to a statute of limitations, "is designed to bar actions after a specified period of time has run from the occurrence of some event other than the injury which gave rise to the claim."
Simply put, the difference is that a statute of limitations is triggered by an injury, while a statute of repose is triggered by the completion of an act. An example of the statute of repose trigger is when a construction project is "substantially completed," meaning that just those items on a "punch list" remain.
As such, a statute of repose may bar a remedy even before a cause of action arises. For example, in a products liability action, a statute of limitation may apply to bar lawsuits a set number of years after the product causes an injury; but a statute of repose may also apply, barring an action after a certain number of years from the date when the product was initially delivered. For example, if a defective product sold to a consumer more than ten years ago injures someone, a ten-year statute of repose (which starts on the product's purchase date) might bar a claim even if the statute of limitation (which starts on the date of injury) does not.
Because statutes of repose, unlike statutes of limitation, impose an absolute bar to actions against manufacturers, usually after the goods are delivered or installed rather than the date when they cause harm, they are strongly favoured by industry trade groups and opposed by consumer organizations and tort lawyers. In the United States, statutes of repose are a part of legislative proposals for "tort reform".
Some states have statutes of repose in the administration of decedent's estates, requiring actions such as will contests or claims that the estate owed money to a creditor are barred by statutes of repose unless brought within the prescribed period under which the claimant or creditor may act.
These statutes, the original nonclaim statutes, are less controversial. Public policy favours the distribution of estates to the heirs with all deliberate speed; after this, the estate is empty. Creditors of the decedent who do not act upon receiving actual or constructive notice that an estate has been opened have their claims cut off, and cannot disturb the peaceful possession of the distributed assets by the heirs.