Recent rulings from the Cour de cassation on time limits

In October, the Cour de cassation explored the subject of time limits, whether for performance, limitation or forclusion:

  • The ten-year period during which enforcement of a Court decision may be pursued runs from the day on which the decision becomes enforceable within the meaning of article L. 111-3, 1° of the French Code of Civil Enforcement Procedures, i.e. from the date of notification to the debtor of the judgment with the official executory formula .

In a ruling dated October 5, 2023, the Cour de Cassation overturned a decision from the Cayenne Court of Appeal, which had declared time-barred the action of a creditor seeking to enforce a judgment more than ten years after the date of its delivery by the trial Court, without regard to the date of service, which alone should be taken into account.

Civ. 2e, 5 October 2023, n°20-23.523

  • Where two parties are bound by a framework agreement and several subsequent contracts, the limitation period for liability claims between the contracting parties, its duration and starting point are governed by each contract and not the framework agreement.

Com., 4 October 2023, n°22-18.358

  • The starting point of a contractually defined forclusion period set from the time of the customer’s knowledge of the accounting error begins to run when a dispute on the said accounting error is referred to the Courts, and not when a decision is rendered.

In this case, the employees of an ambulance company appealed to the Labour Court because of errors in their pay slips. These pay slips had been drafted by the accounting firm responsible for drawing up the annual accounts of the ambulance company. This company therefore turned against its accountant. The general terms and conditions of the accountant’s firm provided for a three-month forclusion period starting from “the date on which the client became aware of the claim“.

The Cour de cassation upheld the appellate Court’s ruling that the ambulance company’s claims for damages were foreclosed and inadmissible, on the grounds that the date of the loss was the date on which the company became aware that the chartered accountant’s misconduct had caused damage (i.e. the date on which the Court had been seized of the matter by the employees), and not the date on which the company became aware of the extent of the damage (i.e. the date of the final decision on compensation)[1] .

This ruling echoes Article L. 114-1, paragraph 3, of the French Insurance Code, which sets the starting point for the two-year limitation period for warranty claims against an insurer at the date of the guarantor’s claim for compensation.

Incidentally, the Cour de cassation confirmed another long-standing ruling: the lower Courts were not required to examine the unfairness of the disputed forclusion clause on their own initiative, as the ambulance company had agreed the engagement letter with the accounting firm in a context “directly related to the company’s business“.

Com., 11 octobre 2023, n°22-10.521




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