France - Time Bars

France - Time Bars

Legal Briefing on Time Bars under French Law

LawTime Bar
Transport Law

Carriage of goods

Any action based on carriage of good contract issued against the carrier, the freight forwarder, the shipper or the consignee is time barred upon a 1 year time limit starting from the moment the cargo was delivered or should have been delivered:

  • Art 133-6 of French Commercial Code, Art L 1432-7 and L 1432-1 of French Transportation Code for freight forwarding, land and air transport.
  • Art L 5422-11 and -18 of French Transportation Code for maritime carriage.

Passenger transportation

Any action based on passenger transportation contract issued against air and maritime carrier is time barred upon a 2 years time limit (Art L 6422-4 of French Transportation Code incorporating Warsaw Convention 12/09/1929 art. 26 & Art L 6422-5 of French Transportation Code for air transport and Art L 5421-6 of French Transportation Code for maritime carriage) except for baggage claims/actions issued against the maritime carrier time barred upon a 1 year time limit (Art L 5421-12 of French Transportation Code)

Any action based on passenger transportation contract issued against the rail or road carrier is time barred upon French Civil Law general time limits i.e. 5 years with exception of any action based on personal injury whereby the time to bring the claim is 10 years. 

French Civil Law statutory general time limits

(applicable to both contractual and tortious actions)

Any personal or property action  - contractual or in tort - is time barred within 5 years from the day when the holder of the right knew or should have known the facts allowing him to exercise his right (Article 2224 of the French Civil Code) with exceptions:

  1. for any personal injury action time barred upon a 10 years time-limit starting form the healing of initial or deteriorated damage (Art 2226 of the French Civil Code);
  2. for any immovable real action time barred upon a 30 years time-limit - except those imprescriptible targeting an ownership right - starting from the day when the holder of the right knows or should have known the facts allowing him to exercise his right (Art 2227 of French Civil Code);
  3. for any action for any damage to the environment time barred upon a 30 years time from damage’s operative event; 

N.b: time limit under French law can be either interrupted - whereby a new time limit starts to run from the date of the interruptive act - or suspended - whereby the lime limit is temporarily suspended without elapsed time being erased (articles 2230, 2231 and 2234 to 2239 of French Civil Code)

French Civil Law contractual time limits

Beside French Civil Law general time limit of 5 years, the parties of a contract are given the possibility by Article 2254 of French Civil Code to arrange and determine the time limit which shall apply to the actions under their contract.
 
This article however specifies that this time limit freely determined by the parties:

  • shall not be inferior to one year;
  • shall not be longer than ten years;

The scope of this article - excluding any action relating to payment - is in particular limited to contracts which are not governed by compulsory rules.

Latent damage / defects  claims in sales contracts or “garantie des vices caches”

Article 1641 of French Civil Code provides that should arise any damage making the sold thing either (i) unfit for the use for which it was intended or (ii) impairs that use at an extent that the buyer would not have acquired it or would have given a lesser price for it had he known of them, any action might be brought by the buyer within 2 years (…) from the moment the latent defect / damage was discovered by the buyer (article 1648 of French Civil Code).
There is sometimes an ambiguity on the application if the latent defects legal guaranty - applicable to the sale of vessels - for instance damage to vessel’s hull - such as osmosis issues. While French jurisdictions would tend as a position of principle to assimilate these damage to vessel’s hull normal aging some court decisions have case-by-case granted the benefit of the latent defects legal guaranty to the buyer of a vessel presenting this type of issue – for ex. Court of Cassation, Commercial Chambers/Division 22/05/2012 case law n.11-13.086 about a hull structural defect.

Penal / Criminal Law

French criminal law provides a tripartite itemisation of infringements varying depending on offences’ seriousness/severity level and each category of offence is ruled by specific Timebars provisions.
Timebars to initiate penal proceeding 

  • For contraventions / fine infringements - lowest level of seriousness: 1 year
  • For penal serious offences: 3 years
  • For criminal infringements - most serious criminal offences: 10 years

Nb: each time limit starts from the day the offence was committed/omitted in case of negligence constituting a penal/criminal infringement
Timebars to enforce a sentence decision

  • For contraventions / fine infringements - lowest level of seriousness: 3 years
  • For penal serious offences: 5 years
  • For criminal infringements - most serious criminal offences: 20 years

Nb: each time limit starts from the day any final court decision imposing a sentence or fine is issued

 

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