Franconia Associates v. United States, 536 U.S. 129, 16 (2002)

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144

FRANCONIA ASSOCIATES v. UNITED STATES

Opinion of the Court

In sum, once it is understood that ELIHPA is most sensibly characterized as a repudiation, the decisions below lose force. To recapitulate, "[t]he time of accrual . . . depends on whether the injured party chooses to treat the . . . repudiation as a present breach." 1 C. Corman, Limitation of Actions 7.2.1, p. 488 (1991). If that party "[e]lects to place the repudiator in breach before the performance date, the accrual date of the cause of action is accelerated from [the] time of performance to the date of such election." Id., at 488-489. But if the injured party instead opts to await performance, "the cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitations commences to run, from the time fixed for performance rather than from the earlier date of repudiation." Id., at 488.

The Government draws no distinction "between a duty to allow petitioners to prepay and a duty to accept tendered prepayments"; "any such distinction," the Government acknowledges, "would be without significance." Brief for United States 33. Indeed, the Government recognizes, if petitioners had an "unfettered right to prepay," then, "of course," that right would be complemented by an "obligation to accept any prepayment tendered." Ibid. In defense of the judgment below, the Government relies on two other grounds.

First, the Government draws upon the text of 2501, which bars any claims not "filed within six years after [the] claim first accrues." The words "first accrues," the Government contends, are key. See id., at 11. Those words, according to the Government, convey Congress' intent to guard the sovereign against claims that might be deemed timely under statutes of limitations applicable to private parties. Id., at 28. As the Government reads 2501, the "first accrues" qualification ensures that suits against the United States are filed on "the earliest possible date," id., at 17, thereby providing the Government with "reasonably prompt notice of the fiscal implications of past enactments," id.,

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