Franconia Associates v. United States, 536 U.S. 129, 17 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 129 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

at 16. See ibid. ("[S]trict construction of [ 2501] . . . serves the salutary purpose of ensuring that a Congress close to the one that enacted the statute [alleged to have caused a breach of contract]—rather than a Congress serving perhaps many decades later—may and must address the consequences."); see Tr. of Oral Arg. 45-46.

We do not agree that 2501 creates a special accrual rule for suits against the United States. Contrary to the Government's contention, the text of 2501 is unexceptional: A number of contemporaneous state statutes of limitations applicable to suits between private parties also tie the commencement of the limitations period to the date a claim "first accrues." See J. Angell, Limitations of Actions 536-588 (6th ed. 1876) (quoting state statutes of limitations). Equally telling, in its many years of applying and interpreting 2501, the Court of Federal Claims has never attributed to the words "first accrues" the meaning the Government now proposes. Instead, in other settings, that court has adopted the repudiation doctrine in its traditional form when evaluating the timeliness of suits governed by 2501. See Plaintiffs in Winstar-Related Cases v. United States, 37 Fed. Cl. 174, 183-184 (1997), aff'd sub nom. Ariadne Financial Services Pty. Ltd. v. United States, 133 F. 3d 874 (CA Fed. 1998). In line with our recognition that limitations principles should generally apply to the Government "in the same way that" they apply to private parties, Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U. S. 89, 95 (1990), we reject the Govern-ment's proposed construction of 2501. That position, we conclude, presents an "unduly restrictiv[e]" reading of the congressional waiver of sovereign immunity, Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U. S. 467, 479 (1986), rather than "a realistic assessment of legislative intent," Irwin, 498 U. S., at 95.9

9 As petitioners observe, see Reply Brief 6, n. 6, the "first accrues" qualification might serve a meaningful purpose in the context of tolling of disabilities for successive claimants. In that context, the qualification would ensure that suit could be delayed only during the disability of the claim-


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