1. Owing to a lawfirm: standard big lawfirm retainer / representation agreement signed. Bills owed. No effort to collect in last two years. Is the retainer/rep agreement (assume standard) a contract -- 4 years?
A: Yes, that would be a contract, and the statute of limitations would be 4 years.
2. Owing to a vendor wherein there is no contract. Just invoices that were likely paid for a while and then payments stopped. No collection activity.
a. what's the statue if effort to collect was a couple phone calls with last call 2 years ago.
A: If there was no contract, then how would you owe them money? More than likely, there is a contract. For example, if the vendor provided you with a service or product, then there are only two possibilities: (1) the service or product was a gift, or (2) there was an expectation of payment. If (1), then you owe nothing. If (2), then there was a contract and the failure to pay is a breach of contract. The statute of limitations would be 4 years. The attempts to collect are irrelevant.
b. what's the statute if law firm retained?
A: The statute of limitations for a breach of contract is 4 years regardless of whether a law firm was retained.
3. What does toll a statute? Is it only active litigation?
A: The statute of limitations could be tolled for a variety of reasons. Leaving the state tolls it, filing for bankruptcy tolls it (until discharge). There are a lot of reasons (too many to name). If you're the defendant, you don't want it tolled, obviously.