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France

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 December 2020

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Summary

INTRODUCTION

The French code civil, which was adopted in 1804 and marks the birth of modern French law, inherited the concept of prescription from Roman law and earlier French law. Prescription was the subject of title XX of the third book of the code civil (which deals mostly with the law of obligations, inheritance law and patrimonial relations within the family). Following the jus commune, prescription in the original code civil covered ‘acquisitive‘ prescription (prescription acquisitive or usucapion) and ‘extinctive‘ prescription (prescription extinctive). As time went by, French rules on prescription grew more and more complex and the Code's provisions ceased to reflect adequately the state of the law on this issue. Quite apart from the fact that the bringing together of acquisitive and extinctive prescription was increasingly criticised, a number of special (extinctive) prescription periods were created by the legislator, mostly outside the code civil, which resulted in an extraordinary variety of applicable prescription periods. Case law also developed a distinction, barely sketched in the Code, between ‘real‘ prescription periods and‘foreclosure‘(forclusion) periods, the main difference between the two being that the latter, unlike the former, cannot be suspended.

As a result of this complexity, and like in many other Western countries, more and more lawyers called for a reform of the law of prescription at the end of the 20th century. It was initially thought that such reform would be part of a wider reform of the law of obligations, but, quite surprisingly, the French Parliament took the initiative to reform prescription law on a stand-alone basis in 2008, and not to wait for this wider reform. This has been achieved through loi no 2008-561 of 17 June 2008, which came into force immediately.

This statute deals both with acquisitive and extinctive prescription but separates them more clearly than the Code formerly did. Both types of prescription are now the subject of two different titles in the code civil (title XX for extinctive prescription and title XXI for acquisitive prescription) and have only the name ‘prescription‘ in common.

Type
Chapter
Information
Prescription in Tort Law
Analytical and Comparative Perspectives
, pp. 309 - 338
Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2020

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