Limitation of claims (a.o. CO 127 ff.) in the Swiss legal sense means that a claim still exists but, provided the debtor raises a defence of limitation, can no longer be enforced through the courts (CO 142). This also means that a claim which has become statute-barred can still be satisfied and if it has been paid by mistake, it can no longer be reclaimed on the basis of unjust enrichment (CO 62 ff.).
Claims arising from contractual liability under CO 97 ff. according to CO 127 ff. generally expire within 10 years. An exception are claims for damages or satisfaction arising from bodily injury or death of a person in breach of contract. These claims are subject to a limitation period of 3 years from the day on which the injured party became aware of the damage, but in any case 20 years from the day on which the damaging behaviour took place or ceased (CO 128a).
Claims arising from tort or fault-based liability pursuant to CO 41 ff. according to CO 60 are also subject to a limitation period of 3 years, calculated from the day on which the injured party obtained knowledge of the damage and of the person liable to pay compensation (relative limitation period), but in any case also 10 years, calculated from the day on which the damaging behaviour took place or ceased (absolute limitation period). In the case of death of a person or bodily injury, the absolute limitation period, as in the case of the corresponding contractual liability, is 20 years, calculated from the day on which the harmful behaviour took place or ceased. If the action is derived from a criminal offence for which the criminal law prescribes a longer limitation period (limitation of prosecution), this limitation period also applies to the relative limitation of the civil claim.
According to PrHG 9, claims arising from product liability expire within 3 years after the injured party has or should have had knowledge of the damage, the defect and of the person of the manufacturer.
If a liability case is threatened by a limitation of claim, this can be interrupted in accordance with CO 135 ff., among other things, by the recognition of the claim by the liable party, by debts enforcement of the liable party or by legal action. The limitation of claim then begins anew. Not provided for by law, but regularly applied in practice, is the contractual waiver of the limitation period by the liable party. This enables the liable party to avoid debt enforcement.