I wrote a check for a product and the company notified me three years later they never cashed the check. Do I still owe them a new check?
2 Answers from Attorneys
It depends. Most debts have a 3 year statute of limitations. So if you purchased a product and after three years...and it must be over 3 years, not 2 years 10 months, then you likely have no liability in terms of paying them. Make sure you don't admit you owe it.
I agree with Attorney Love for the most art. The information in your post is not adequate to enable any attorney to advise you. What was ordered? Did you order it? Did you receive it? Where did you send the payment? Why wasn't the check cashed? Why are they just getting around to this now? How were you contacted? What did you order? How much was the item? Was the debt incurred while you lived in NC?
If you mailed the check it could be that the payment was lost or never delivered by the post office. In that case it would not be the fault of the company for not cashing it as you claim.
Insofar as a legal duty goes, the statute of limitations is 3 or 4 years (depending on the value of the item - items subject to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) are governed by the 4 year statute). That means that the company has 3 or 4 years from the date that the money was owed to sue you.
If the item was less than $500, then the UCC does not apply and there is a 3 year statute. If you are very very confident that more than 3 years has elapsed and you have not been sued, then you no longer have a legal duty to pay. If the UCC applies, then its 4 years and you may have a duty to pay if the 4 years has not expired,.
If the item was very small in cost (less than $1000), then it has been my experience that a company will not sue you. Its will cost more to sue than its worth. But this is just a general observation - there is no law that says a company cannot sue you if even $1.00 was owed.
Having a legal duty to pay or not pay is not the same as a moral duty. If you ordered the item in good faith and the seller sent it to you in good faith, then I think that you have an obligation to pay for it regardless of the statute of limitations. If they did not get the check or through ineptitude did not cash the check and its now stale, then its not your fault and you should not have to pay penalties or late fees or interest. However, there is a fee for stopping payment in a check. See if you can negotiate to have them lop some money off because of their ineptitude. If they agree, get them to send you a revised invoice. Stop payment on the check regardless of whether it has been cashed or not. When you get the new invoice, pay it and re-issue a new check or get a bank check. Send the payment preferably by UPS or FedEx to their physical address (FedEx and UPS will not deliver to a PO Box). That way, you can track when the item is delivered and get information as to who signed for it. UPS will even send you signature confirmation if you pay an extra $5.00.
Of course, if the statute has expired, you can write back to the company and advise that the statute has expired and not to bother you anymore as well. Then the company can decide what to do. Understand that if you do not pay and even if the statute of limitations has expired, this can still be listed on your credit report as a delinquent debt. So if your credit is important to you, you may want to factor that into your decision. Also, just because the statute of limitations has expired does not mean that you do not owe the debt or that the company cannot ask you to pay or that the company cannot sue you. The statute of limitations is a court defense that only applies in court. And creditors can sue even though the statute has expired. Its up to the debtor to raise the statute of limitations in a timely filed answer.