Sep 5, 2021

Effect of Louisiana Supreme Court’s Emergency Suspension of Periods of Prescription, Peremption, and Abandonment

September 3, 2021
Written by: Raymond C. Lewis and Sloan L. Abernathy

Considering Governor John Bel Edwards’ statewide declaration of emergency due to the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered a 30-day suspension of all prescriptive, peremptive, and abandonment periods.[1] The Supreme Court’s order was issued under the authority granted by Louisiana Civil Code Article 3472.1 and Code of Civil Procedure Article 562; both of which were newly enacted in June 2020 in response to the series of emergency declarations tied to COVID-19. Considering how new they are, neither statute has been applied or interpreted by Louisiana courts of appeal.

Under the Supreme Court’s order, the suspension of these periods is only a temporary halt to their running. According to Louisiana Civil Code Article 3472, “the period of suspension is not counted toward accrual of prescription. Prescription commences to run again upon the termination of the period of suspension.” Typically, when the period of suspension ends, the “time which preceded suspension is added to the time which it follows to compose the necessary period; only the period of suspension is deducted.” Shannon v. Vannoy, 2017-1722 (La. App. 1 Cir. 6/1/18); 251 So.2d 442, 448.

The Supreme Court’s order suspending these periods is effective Thursday, August 26, 2021 through Monday, September 27, 2021.[2] Barring any further orders, beginning Monday, September 27, 2021, these periods will begin to run again and the 30-days of the suspension is not counted. The 30-day suspension is important for any litigant faced with a prescription, peremption, or abandonment period that would have accrued between August 26, 2021, and September 27, 2021.  

The two new statutes on which the Supreme Court’s order is based also create a cut-off for how long the benefits of this emergency suspension last. Subsections B of Article 3472.1 and Article 562 provide that “[t]he right to file any pleading subject” to the emergency suspension “shall terminate sixty days after the termination of the suspension.”[3] While the effect and parameters of this cut-off have not been addressed by our courts, the cut-off appears to be Wednesday, November 24, 2021 and any prescriptive, peremptive, or abandonment periods that accrue beyond that date would not be impacted by the suspension laid out in the current order.

[1] In the context of civil litigation, “liberative prescription” and “peremption” refer to limitations periods within which a party must file suit to enforce and preserve a right of action. A suit can be dismissed for “abandonment” if no step has been taken in its prosecution or defense for a period of three years

[2] The 30-day extension expires on Saturday, September 25, 2021, but that is a legal holiday and the last day of the extension carries over to the next day that is not a legal holiday.

[3] See La. C.C. art. 3472.1; La. C.C.P. art. 562.