The statute of limitations period applicable to a breach of contract cause of action in New York is ordinarily six years. However, parties to a contract may agree, in writing, that any lawsuit must be commenced within a shorter period of time. Moreover, while the statute of limitations on a breach of insurance contract generally starts to run on the date that coverage is disclaimed by the insurance company, the parties to an insurance contract are likewise free to include distinct language in their agreement demonstrating that they intend for the limitations period to run from the date of the underlying loss as opposed to the date of the disclaimer of coverage.

In a recent decision,1 the New York Appellate Division held that a breach of insurance contract cause of action by an insured was untimely where it was unquestionably commenced beyond the 24-month limitations period provided for in the insurance policy. There, in the fall of 2014, a multiunit residential building was burglarized and damaged while it was undergoing renovations. The owner of the building filed a claim with her insurance company, which denied the claim for alleged lack of coverage in September 2014. The insured then commenced a breach of contract action against the 1nsurance company in October 2016.

The trial court dismissed the insured’s complaint after the insurance company claimed it was not timely commenced under the insurance policy-which provided:

No suit or action on this policy for the recovery of any claim shall be sustainable in any court of law or equity … unless commenced within [24] months next after the inception of the loss.2

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of the insured’s complaint, ruling that while the specific date of the burglary was unknown, the insured’s complaint was commenced beyond the 24-month limitations period in the insurance policy because the insurance company disclaimed coverage in September 2014 and the action was not commenced until October 2016.

If you are unsure as to the statute of limitations for your insurance policy, contact one of the attorneys at the Merlin Law Group.
1 Anderson v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 527173, 2019 WL 1560349 (N.Y. App. Div. Apr. 11, 2019).
2 Such “inception of the loss” language has generally been interpreted to mean the date of the underlying loss.