Three cases. On February 17, 2020, Indiana’s highest court issued opinions in two cases dealing with the statute of limitations applicable to “closed account” notes or, in other words, installment contracts with a maturity date. Here are links to the two opinions:
A third case, Stroud v. Stone, 122 N.E.3d 825 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), which followed Alialy, was not on appeal but effectively was overturned.
Background. For information on the cases and how the law developed before the Supreme Court’s decisions, click on these posts:
- March 2009: Indiana’s Statute Of Limitations For The Enforcement Of Promissory Notes – 6 Years
- August 2019: Indiana Court of Appeals Adopts Reasonableness Test For Promissory Note Statute of Limitations
- August 2019: Indiana Has Two Statutes Of Limitations For Promissory Notes
- February 2020: Indiana Supreme Court Currently Reviewing Statute Of Limitations Rules Applicable to Promissory Notes
Nature of notes. Both Blair and Alialy involved an installment contract (required a series of payments) that had a maturity date (stated when the full balance was due). The notes in the two cases also had discretionary acceleration clauses, which gave “the lender the option to immediately demand payment on the full loan amount if the borrower fail[ed] to pay one or more installments.”
Not all notes have maturity dates or optional acceleration clauses, so the Court’s rulings do not apply to all loans. For example, see: Indiana’s Statute Of Limitations For “Open Account” Claims: Supplier’s Case Too Late. Always be sure to study the language in the note. Having said that, I believe the vast majority of promissory notes secured by real estate mortgages are “closed” and have optional acceleration provisions.
Accrual dates. As previously reported here, the length of the statute (six years) was not the issue. When the clock on the six years starts ticking – the “accrual date” – was. The Court in Blair studied Indiana’s two applicable statutes, Ind. Code 34-11-2-9 and Ind. Code 26-1-3.1-118(a), and concluded that “three events [trigger] the accrual of a cause of action for payment upon a promissory notice containing an optional acceleration clause:”
- A lender can sue for a missed payment within six years of a borrower’s default;
- Upon a missed payment, a lender can exercise its option to accelerate, “fast-forward to the note’s maturity date,” and sue for the full balance owed within six years of acceleration; or
- A lender can chose not to accelerate and sue for the entire amount owed within six years of maturity.
The “reasonableness test” is now gone.
Bar dates. Looking at the three scenarios above, here is my view of when an action would be barred:
- No bar. The lender could, but does not have to, sue within six years of a missed payment. See 2 and 3.
- Barred if no suit filed within six years of acceleration.
- Barred if no suit filed within six years of maturity.
Outcome. Interestingly, to illustrate how the Court apparently buried for good the “reasonableness test,” theoretically a lender would have 36 years to file suit under a standard 30-year mortgage loan, even if the borrower never made a single payment. (Mortgages are governed by different statutes, however.) It’s hard to argue with the Court’s logic, which is based upon pretty clear language in the two statutes. Unless the General Assembly takes action, this matter is closed.
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