Arbitration and the Rule of Law: Lessons from Limitations Period – Vol. 27 No. 4

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Author: Gary B. Born and Adam Raviv*

Published: May 2017

Arbitral Process
Arbitral Decisions
National Institutions and Rules
International Institutions and Rules


Countless arbitration agreements are concluded every day in the United States.  These agreements, and the arbitral process, play a vitally important role in contemporary American life, providing an efficient, expert, and enforceable means of dispute resolution in a wide range of commercial and other settings.  It is therefore remarkable that a number of state court decisions have adopted a largely unnoticed position that, if followed elsewhere, would pose a serious threat to the use of arbitration in the United States.  These decisions frustrate the central purposes of arbitration agreements and violate both the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“New York Convention”).

As discussed in Part I of this article, a number of U.S. state courts have held that statutes of limitations do not apply in arbitration.  Although there are a few contrary decisions, courts in California, Minnesota, Maine, North Carolina, Connecticut and elsewhere have interpreted state statutes of limitations as applicable only to “actions” or “suits” in state courts, and not in arbitration.  Decisions of a few federal courts have adopted the same position, holding that particular statutes of limitations do not apply in arbitration.

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*Gary B. Born is a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in London. He is the author of Gary Born, International Commercial Arbitration (2d ed. 2014). Adam Raviv is a special counsel in the International Arbitration and Government and Regulatory Litigation practice groups at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Washington, DC. The authors thank George A. Bermann, Natascha Born, Christopher R. Drahozal, William W. Park, Alan S. Rau, and Catherine A. Rogers for their helpful feedback and Shouvik Bhattacharya for valuable research assistance. The views expressed in this article are solely the authors’ and are not to be attributed to their firm or its clients.