Owings Mills, MD asked in Real Estate Law and Construction Law for Maryland

Q: Maryland subcontractor claims contractor didn't pay what is the statute of limitations for him to file a lawsuit?

I am a contractor in Maryland and a subcontractor says that I owe him for work performed. His invoices date from April 2019 to December 2019. What is the statute of limitations and does it apply to each invoice or does it apply to the last invoice which would include all of them? Thank you

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Construction Law Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Generally, the SOL runs from the date of breach of a contract, or from the last date the money became due and remained unpaid. Sometimes, that is harder to nail down in some cases, and may depend on whether the subcontractor's claim is based upon a single contract to provide labor and materials, with periodic invoicing under that one contract, in which case the SOL would likley run from the last date money was due for any work done under the contract; or whether the subcontractor entered into a series of independent subcontracts for separate work, such that after each separate contract was completed, the SOL started to run from that specific date for that separate contract. If the terms of the contract specified payment due upon billing, then the SOL should run from the date of the invoice, and if that invoice was the last of several invoices under one contract, then the SOL would likely run from that date for all upaid work under the contract regardless if some of the amounts due were invoiced earlier. If the contract specified payment shall be made within 30 days of the invoice, then you start the clock as of the 30th day after the date of invoice. If the contract is silent as to payment due dates or invoicing, then you could argue that the date of invoice is irrelevant: the SOL starts to run from the date the last work or materials were provided under the contract, which was the last identifiable date that money became due and owing under the contract for actual labor performed or materials delivered on site.

One additional wrinkle: any SOL period that encompassed the time during March 2020-July 2020 when the courts shut down due to Covid, was tolled for at least the 126 days the courts were closed, meaning, those 126 days do not count, and you have to add 126 days to the normal 3 year SOL period. There is an argument that there is also an additional 15 days added to that 126 day extension (the administrative court order that tolled/extended the SOL during the closure provided for a 15 day grace period, although that period may only apply to SOLs that would have expired during the closure and not beyond). There is a pending Court of Appeals opinion that has yet to be issued that will clarify some of the issues around that 126 day extension, which was challeneged as beyond the Court's authority to act; however, the Court has since issued other opinions applying the extension, so the expectation is the additional SOL period will remain in place. So, for your purposes, the exact day in December 2019 you start counting the SOL is critical: three years and 126 days will put you somewhere between a date in April 2022 and the end of the first week in May 2022 for filing suit in order to come within the SOL.

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