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I'm sorry to hear about your situation. Yes, there would be a statute of limitations. It would be 4 or 6 years, depending on the type of contract. It's most likely 4. If you have not paid anything nor acknowledged anything in 17 years, the statute of limitation has long since run. Note that you CAN still open up the statute of limitations again by paying something (even a penny) towards the debt. That can also allow them to report to the credit bureaus the late payments, etc... But if you don't, they cannot report this to the credit bureaus, pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (which says that if it's more than 7 years since the last "adverse" incident, such as nonpayment) then it can't be reported).
Note that the statute of limitations does not discharge a debt. Someone can still seek to recover that debt nonjudicially. So they can still call you, tell you that you have to pay, try to negotiate, etc... But they have no "bite" to that "bark". They can't sue, even if they say they can. You can tell them that you know the statute of limitations has long since expired on any such debt (although never, never acknowledge that you owe such a debt) and that you're not going to pay a penny on that. Then you can tell them to stop contacting you pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). They'll know what that means.
Debt collectors will buy stale debt for pennies on the dollar (or pennies on the tens of dollars). They'll "negotiate" it down because they're still making money if you agree. But you don't have to. The statute of limitations would have passed long ago if you haven't done anything on this debt in at least 17 years, and you can let them know that you know that.
Hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. Please note that I don't get any credit for the time and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it positively (3 or more stars). Look for the stars on your screen (★★★★★). Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!