Beyond the essential health considerations, the Covid19 crisis has tested the entirety of the mechanisms and institutions in place. The legal system has not escaped this crisis and it has been necessary to overturn the procedures in place. It is in this dynamic that the ordinance n°2020-306 of March 25, 2020, relating to the extension of the deadlines that have expired during the period.
The procedures and acts concerned by these provisions must be specified; they are in no case contractual stipulations. Thus, “acts, appeals, legal actions, formalities, registrations, declarations, notifications or publications prescribed by law or regulation on the grounds of invalidity, foreclosure, prescription (…)” are concerned.
Prescription periods are therefore likely to be affected by this ordinance, but it is necessary to specify that only certain prescription periods may be extended.
It is appropriate for our study to distinguish two distinct periods, all resulting from Ordinance No. 2020-306 of March 25, 2020 ” Relating to the extension of deadlines that have expired during the period of a public health emergency and to the adaptation of procedures during this same period“, and necessary for a proper understanding of the consequences of this ordinance on the limitation dates:
- State of Public Health Emergency :
It was established on March 23, 2020 for a period of two months. In order to follow the evolution of the health crisis, this state of emergency was likely to be extended so that its initial term was pushed back to July 10, 2020 at midnight by law n°2020-546 of May 11, 2020.
The state of health emergency therefore extends from March 23, 2020 to midnight on July 10, 2020.
- The legally protected period :
This is the period for which the above-mentioned deadlines can be adapted in accordance with the health crisis. This period covers the entire state of health emergency and a period of one month from its end.
The legally protected period is therefore from March 23, 2020 to midnight on August 10.
As a result of the ordinance of March 25, 2020, time limits that were to expire during the legally protected period are subject to extension. This extension can be interpreted as a new limitation period of two months from the end of the legally protected period.
The ordinance n°2020-306 of March 25, 2020 relating to the extension of deadlines during the health emergency period and the adaptation of procedures during this same period leads us to wonder about the consequences of this measure for CMR consignment notes.
It is necessary to specify that these measures concern only the domestic rules of law.
The terms of the CMRs are governed by the Geneva Convention of May 19, 1956 as amended by the protocol of July 5, 1978, which takes precedence over the ordinances in the hierarchy of norms.
As a result, CMRs are not impacted by the prescription ordinance.
It is therefore good practice to serve the summons within the normal time limits. If the bailiff is unable to serve the summons, this may be due to force majeure and will not jeopardize the action on the basis of prescription.