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I loaned a friend money. He then vanished. 18 years later I found him. He lives in a different state then where the loan was made. I also live in a different state. I know there are time limits, but are exceptions made when it is clear the person tried to hide from you. And if I can still file, which state would I file?

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    Probably better on Law.SE (but check their help pages first). According to Statute of limitations: United States, (a) the time-limit has almost certainly expired, and (b) you could probably have filed a complaint with the court even if your friend was absent. After 18 years, I suspect (but IANAL) there's not much you can do.
    – TripeHound
    Jan 21, 2020 at 8:43
  • Can you clarify what you mean by "file?"
    – dwizum
    Jan 21, 2020 at 14:46
  • Sorry meant file with small claims court.
    – Robert
    Jan 21, 2020 at 15:23
  • @dwizum Filing/creating the lawsuit. As in "If the statute of limitations expires before a lawsuit is filed" from the link I added.
    – TripeHound
    Jan 21, 2020 at 15:23

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Q1: What are the time limits?

It depends on the state, and the type of agreement (oral, written, promissory note, open-ended). But according to TheBalance.com, it is usually between three and six years, and the highest is fifteen years. So in your case -- 18 years -- you are very likely going to be prevented from filing a suit in any state, and with any form of agreement.

Q2: Are exceptions made when it is clear the person tried to hide from you?

There are some exceptions that can pause the statute of limitations, but I don't see that any apply to you in this situation.

  • Discovery - the clock might not start running until you discover that you've been harmed. Presumably you knew that he stopped making payments at about the same time that he vanished, so any claim that you didn't discover the harm until later seems unlikely to get very far.
  • Absence - the clock can be paused if the defendant is unable to be served with notice of the complaint. This one is a possibility, but it seems to require that you at least attempted to serve him with some sort of legal notice of default.
  • Legal disability - if the plaintiff is a minor or has been declared mentally incapacitated, there may be additional time granted. If you think this one might apply in your situation, please edit your question to point us in that direction.
  • Other uncommon exceptions: military service, death, war, jail/prison. I don't see anything in the question that points to any of these.

These are discussed in more detail at this Lawyers.com page. That page focuses on personal injury cases, but the basic principals apply to other types of civil lawsuits.

Q3: If I can still file, in which state would I file?

Typically, you will file in Small Claims Court in the defendant's state. Per Nolo.com:

"If a defendant has no contact with your state, you'll generally have to sue in the state where the defendant lives or does business."

From another Nolo.com page:

"If you want to sue someone who lives in another state, you will have to sue in the state where the person lives, not in the state where you live."

However, you might be able to sue in the state where the contract was signed. Per RocketLawyer.com:

Contact the county clerk in the small claims court district closest to the residence or business of the person you are suing. If the defendant has no contact with your state, you may be able to sue in the location in your state where the contract was signed, but you generally have to sue in the state where the person you're suing lives or does business.

Because neither of you currently reside in the state where the loan was made, the part about "...sue in the location in your state where the contract was signed..." makes this option sound unlikely to bear fruit.

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