Statute of Limitations – California

Posted May 11, 2017

WHAT IS “THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS”?

(P.S. It’s “Statute”, not “Statue”  )

Statute of Limitations - California

Deadline to File Your Lawsuit

Generally speaking, the statute of limitations is a specific law (or “statute”) that states when a lawsuit must be filed. It is a specific measurement of time (i.e., 1 year) that “limits” the length of time one has to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits filed after the passing of this specific amount of time can be challenged and dismissed merely because the time has passed. The amount of time allowed depends on the type of claim. For example, in California, you must file a lawsuit for any losses due to an automobile negligence claim within 2 years of the date you were injured. If you claim someone breached a written contract, you must bring your lawsuit within 4 years. If it was an oral contract, the time is 2 years.  Whatever the type of claim you may have, contact an experienced litigation and trial attorney at once to discuss your claim and the time limits that apply.

Many people are under the mistaken belief that they cannot be sued after the specific time period has expired. This is not entirely correct. You can be sued. And if you do nothing, you will lose and you will also lose the opportunity to assert the defense of an expired statute of limitations. That is, it is an absolute defense- But it Must be Asserted! The obligation to tell the court is your responsibility. The court will assume what is said in the lawsuit is valid if no one shows up to tell them otherwise.

WHEN DOES THE TIME START?

Sometimes this is very easy to spot (such as the date of an accident) and other times it can be difficult to determine exactly. As it pertains to debts, specifically say credit card debt, the creditor has 4 years from the date the written contract was “breached”. Typically the breach occurs when no payment is made. This why it is important to know when you made your last payment. Generally the creditor has a record of your payments, but they are not always reliable. Also remember that the date of your last payment is not your breach date. It is the next date that at payment is due and no payment is made. This is why many advise to not make a payment on an account when the statute of limitations is about to expire, as this may reset the clock and thereby allow the creditor more time to file a lawsuit.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • Multiple Defendants: When a plaintiff has cause to sue based on knowledge or suspicion of negligence, the statute starts to run as to all potential defendants, even if unidentified.
  • Government Defendants: Must first submit administrative claim within 6 months (tort claims) or 1 year (real property & contract claims) of “accrual” before filing suit.

PARTIAL CHART OF THE “STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS” IN CALIFORNIA

Description Statute
Contract (in writing), 4 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337
Contract (oral), 2 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 339
False Imprisonment, 1 year Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340
Fraud, 3 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338
Enforcing Court Judgments, 10 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337.5
Legal Malpractice, 1 year Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340.6
Libel, 1 year Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340
Medical Malpractice, 1 or 3 years (Depending on when the victim “discovers” the injury) Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340.5
Personal Injury, 2 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1
Product Liability, 2 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1
Property Damage, 3 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338
Slander, 1 year Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340
Trespass, 3 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338
Wrongful Death, 2 years Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1

Partial List of Exceptions to Statute of Limitations

Tolling statutes, e.g. latent construction defects – 10 years

Defendant absent from state (exception does not apply to non-resident motorists, corporations, limited partnerships and certain others)

Minors – Statute does not start until minor turns age 18 or emanicapted (although exception does not apply in uninsured motorist cases, medical malpractice, certain sexual abuse cases, and government claims generally)

Bankruptcy – puts statute of limitations on “hold”

Voluntary Agreement – The statute of limitations may be extended by voluntary agreement of the parties.

Military service – puts statute of limitations on “hold” in certain circumstances

Delayed Discovery Rule – suspends (delays, lengthens) by not starting the time period until plaintiff should reasonably have discovered the harm and wrongdoing

Interference – Defendant’s conduct contributed to plaintiff’s delay in filing suit.

Insurance Company Non-Disclosure – Insurance company fails to notify plaintiff who is not represented by an attorney.

Christopher Shenfield, Attorney at Law, Burlingame, May 11, 2017.  Questions?  Email or call me to discuss your case!!  Email: chris@shenfieldlaw.com  Tel: (650) 373-2054