B owes A $100. Will an acknowledgment in writing that the debt is owed, by a statement such as "I owe you $100", containing no express promise to pay, toll the statute of limitations? If so, is the time at which the acknowledgment is made, i. e., before or after the statute has once run, significant? Williston states that the unqualified acknowledgment in writing of a present obligation to another, unaccompanied by any evidence showing a determination not to pay, contains the tacit or implied expression of a promise to pay; that a promise to pay is by implication of fact a part of the acknowledgment and hence operates to toll the statute. This view, supported by case authority and accepted by the Restatement of Contracts, appears to be the general rule. Williston points out that it is an artificial inference of fact, but that the preponderance of decisions has so held even though it is not made in respect to acknowledgments of debt in related situations. There are a few jurisdictions which disregard the need of a promise, express or implied, and follow the rule popular in Lord Mansfield's day, i. e., that the acknowledgment, though implying no promise, is sufficient to toll the statute.
Arthur S. Quigley,
The Written Acknowledgement: Its Effect on the Operation of the Statute of Limitations,
15 Wash. L. Rev. & St. B.J.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol15/iss2/6