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From Wikipedia:

A statute of limitations is an enactment in a common law legal system that sets the maximum time after an event that legal proceedings based on that event may be initiated. In civil law systems, similar provisions are typically part of the civil code or criminal code and are often known collectively as periods of prescription.

So is there such a concept in Jewish Law? Will Beis Din ever tell a claimant that s/he waited too long to begin legal proceedings?

Or can the fact that a claimant waited too long (and didn't bother pursuing justice) ever be used as proof to the claimant's detriment?

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You speak of a claimant: are you asking, then, only about civil cases (law suits, typically based on Choshen Mishpat) and not about criminal cases (trials for crimes, with possible punishment of lashes or death)? If so, you might wish to state that more explicitly in the question. –  msh210 Dec 27 '12 at 5:46
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1 Answer

From Torah.org (quoting Pischei Choshen, Halvahah 2, note 72):

The legal concept of "statute of limitations" is not recognized by the halachah

From Daas Torah blog:

There is no statute of limitation for crimes in halacha

From Matzav.com (concerning loans:

In principle, there is no statute of limitations on a loan in halacha (other than sh’mitas kesafim).

.....

If there is a statute of limitations in secular law, it is doubtful whether the concept of dina d’malchusa dina applies. However, if the loan was granted in a commercial setting, the concept of minhag hamedina (common commercial practice) would apply. (Pischei Choshen, 2:ftnt. 72)

The only things in Halacha I can think of that are similar, are adverse possession and sh’mitas kesafim.

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There is a similar concept in overcharging -- customer has until the end of the day to show the deal to the expert so he can protest the overcharge, and this time limit (to the end of the day) is very similar in concept to the statute of limitations on the civil overcharge case. But I'm not aware of it as a concept in any other area of halacha. –  gt6989b Dec 27 '12 at 14:48
    
Does Shemitat Kesafim apply to as-yet unclaimed damages? If so, it could constitute an effective statute oflimitations for damages. –  Isaac Moses Dec 27 '12 at 16:12
    
@Isaac Pruzbul would certainly be used, I should think. –  HodofHod Dec 27 '12 at 16:50
    
@IsaacMoses HodofHod No it's only for loans. (cf CM 67:3,4,6 etc.) –  Double AA Dec 28 '12 at 0:04
    
If you were to claim it and then he says "I'll pay you for it on day X" then it does become a loan though 67:14. If you take him through Beis Din and they rule in your favor then it gets complicated 67:8. But since everyone should be writing a prozbel always anyway this really shouldn't come up very much. –  Double AA Dec 28 '12 at 0:25
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