Statutes of limitation bar legal actions that are not filed in a timely manner. For example, in Arizona A.R.S. § 12-541 mandates that libel or slander claims be filed within one year. Although these time periods will usually be strictly enforced to compel the dismissal of a claim that is not timely filed, there are exceptions that sometimes work to toll the applicable statute of limitations. One mechanism that may be used to extend the limitations period is the operation of A.R.S. § 12-501, which allows for the tolling of the limitations period is "without the state." This statute states:
When a person against whom there is a cause of action is without the state at the time the cause of action accrues or at any time during which the action might have been maintained, such action may be brought against the person after his return to the state. The time of such person's absence shall not be counted or taken as a part of the time limited by the provisions of this chapter.
Unfortunately, as with many laws the meaning of this statute is not as clear as it might seem. Although it might seem that any absence from the state would toll the limitations period for a time period equal to that absence, or that the limitations period would never expire against an out-of-state defendant, the Arizona courts have clarified that that is not the case.
Specifically, the Arizona Supreme Court has held that the terms "without the state" and "absence" as used in this section mean out of state in the sense that service of process as allowed by the Arizona rules could not be completed. This also means that a foreign corporation that is subject to service is not "without the state" under this statute.
If you're involved in a legal claim in Arizona where this or some other statute of limitations defense may be at issue, you should speak with an experienced Arizona litigation attorney as soon as possible.