What is the statute of limitations on “junk debt”?

My wife has received a letter from a collection firm about a debt that is 14 years old. They claim she owes $1838.41 on a credit card issued in 1995 and last paid on in 1996. I contacted these people and they said that they would have to send verification of the debt. However 2 1/2 weeks have gone by and no proof. Is this debt actionable under LA law? What recourse do both parties have?

Asked on July 30, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Louisiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There is a thing called the "statute of limitations," which sets out how long someone has to sue on a debt or other cause of action. It varies by debt or claim and also by state. Once the statute of limitations is up, a debt effectively goes away, since the other party can no longer sue to enforce it. I believe that in LA, the longest statute, for contracts or judgments (i.e. if you've already been sued and lost, and now they want to collect) is 10 years; I think the statute for credit card debt is even short, possibly as short as 3 years. Look up "statute of limitations louisiana" online to check for yourself; a credit card is also called an "open account." From what you write, there is a good chance this debt is no longer enforceable, as too old; that said, if they persist in trying to take action on it, you may need to consult with an attorney about making them stop and possibly even suing them for damages.

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