Doctrine of Contra Non Valentem Law and Legal Definition

Doctrine of Contra Non Valentem comes from the Latin expression ‘contra non valentem agere nulla currit praescriptio,' which means “a prescription does not run against one who is unable to act.” This rule says that limitations or prescriptive period does not begin to run against a plaintiff :

(1) where there was some legal cause which prevented the courts or their officers from taking cognizance of or acting on the plaintiff's action;

(2) where there was some condition coupled with the contract or connected with the proceedings which prevented the creditor from suing or acting;

(3) where the debtor himself has done some act effectually to prevent the creditor from availing himself of his cause of action; and

(4) where the cause of action is not known or reasonably knowable by the plaintiff, even though this ignorance is not induced by the defendant.

These categories allow the courts to weigh the equitable nature of the circumstances in each individual case to determine whether prescription will be tolled. [Carter v. Haygood, 892 So. 2d 1261 (La. Jan. 19, 2005)]

This is an equitable doctrine of Roman origin, with roots in both civil and common law, and is notably at odds with the public policy favoring certainty underlying the doctrine of prescription.