In increasing number, victims of business fraud are bringing lawsuits under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Since the statute does not set out a time limit for bringing suit, the courts must determine the appropriate statute of limitations. Malley-Duff & Associates, Inc. v. Crown Life Insurance Co. illustrates the difficulties Congress creates for the courts when it fails to provide a limitations period. RICO makes it illegal to engage in a "pattern of racketeering activity" for certain illegal purposes. A "pattern of racketeering activity" consists of at least two acts of "racketeering activity" within a ten-year period. "Racketeering activity" is defined in terms of a number of state and federal offenses, commonly referred to as predicate offenses. In addition to criminal penalties, RICO provides that any person injured in business or property by reason of a RICO violation may recover treble damages and attorneys' fees.
In this case, the Supreme Court will determine the statute of limitations for a RICO treble damages claim. To answer this question, the Court must decide a number
of related issues: Should the courts borrow a statute of limitations from state or federal law? Should there be a uniform statute of limitations for all RICO claims, or should the limitations period vary from case to case, depending upon the underlying offenses? If there should be a uniform period, what is the most appropriate
characterization for a private RICO claim?
Black, Barbara, "Filling in the Gap Left by Congress: What is the Statute of Limitations for Private RICO Claims?" (1986). Faculty Articles and Other Publications. 78.