Go to Statute of Limitations
WHEN DOES THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS TIME
Statute of Limitations?
of limitations” (SOL) are laws that tell you how much time you have to
lawsuit. Once the time expires, a court will not allow a lawsuit to
the matter if the SOL defense is raised. This
article discusses when the
SOL time period starts (accrues)
under California law.
there Statute of Limitations?
statutes of limitations protect
defendants from having to defend stale claims due to lack of diligence
plaintiffs [See Davies v. Krasna (1975) 14 Cal. 3d 502, 512]
"designed to promote justice by preventing surprises through the
of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been
memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared. (See Adams v.
(1995) 11 Cal. 4th 583, 592).
the limitations time clock start running?
the SOL begins after two things
wrongdoing occurs; and
wrongdoing causes harm.
after all of these things happen,
the SOL clock starts to run (accrues).
A legally enforceable duty (or promise) is violated
Damages, injuries legally allowed to be recovered
for the specific type of wrongdoing.
significant or substantial connection
(nexus) between the duty and the harm.
I know that someone’s wrongdoing
caused me harm, but I do not know who did the wrongdoing?
statute of limitations begins to run
anyway. If the SOL is about to run, and
you don’t know who did the wrong, file the lawsuit and name the
wrongdoer as a
calculate the statute of limitations?
Determine the type(s) of
wrongdoing that happened to you.
Determine when the wrong and
the harm actually happened to you.
Find out what the statute of
limitations is for each of the wrongs. Different
wrongs (called “cause of actions”) can have
different SOLs. See Statute of Limitations
If it appears that the SOL has run, look
for exceptions that toll (delay the time clock) or lengthen the SOL. See Exceptions
to Statute of Limitations
It is generally better settle a claim in full or
file a lawsuit before the SOL using the general SOL calculation rule
exception. Exceptions can sometimes
difficult to prove.
February 1, 2008, John and
Mark enter a written loan contract in California whereby John loaned
payable in 10 monthly installments of $100. Mark
pays the first two installments. But
he does not pay the third installment which was due on
May 1, 2008,
and never paid any more money. Mark
broke his promise and breached the contract (i.e. wrongdoing), and John
suffered harm (no payment). The statute
of limitations time clock begins on May 1, 2008 because both the
harm started on that date. California
has a 4 year SOL on a breach of written contract cause of action. Accordingly, unless an exception applies, the
SOL deadline occurs on May 1, 2012 (5/1/2008 to 5/1/2012 = 4 years).
March 21, 2010, Jane is
stopped in car at a red light. Mary does
not notice that the light is red or that Jane’s car is stopped, and
car into the rear of Jane’s car. Jane’s
car is damaged and she suffers physical injury. Mary
breached her duty of reasonable care, was therefore
wrongdoing), and Jane suffered harm (property damage and physical
injuries). The statute of limitations
time clock begins on March 21, 2010. California
has a negligence 3 year SOL on property damage
and a two year
SOL for personal injury. Accordingly,
unless an exception applies, the SOL deadline runs on March 21, 2013
property damage and March 21, 2012 for the personal injuries.
June 1, 2009, Grocery Co.
produce dept. employee Jim drops a banana on the floor and does not
pick it up,
creating a dangerous condition to others (wrongdoing).
The next day, June 2, 2009, Kim slips on the
banana, injuring herself (harm). The
statute of limitations time clock begins on June 2, 2009.
California has a negligence 2 year SOL on for
personal injury. Accordingly, unless an
exception applies, the SOL deadline runs on June 2, 2011.
“ACCRUAL” OF THE STATUTE OF
general, civil action statute of limitations only begin (commence)
cause of action shall have accrued ...." Code of Civil
Procedure § 312
statute of limitations does not begin to run until the cause of action
that is, " 'until the party owning it is entitled to begin and
an action thereon.' " (Spear v.
California State Auto. Assn. (1992) 2 Cal.4th
does a cause of action accrue?
in "ordinary tort and
contract actions," the limitations period begins when the "last
essential element to the
cause of action" occurs. (Neel v. Magana, Olney, Levy, Cathcart and
Gelfand (1971) 6 Cal.3d 176, 187; Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.
of La Habra (2001); Norgart v. Upjohn Co. (1999) 21 Cal.4th
25 Cal.4th 809, 815; Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. (2005)
797, 806). even if the Plaintiff was
ignorant thereof, and even if he or she did not know the identity of
wrongdoer (Neal, supra., at
p. 187, and see Gale v. McDaniel
(1887) 72 Cal. 334, 335.
parties generally need not know the
exact manner in which their injuries were "effected, nor the identities
all parties who may have played a role therein." (Teitelbaum v.
(1962) 206 Cal.App.2d 634, 639.
Since a cause
of action accrues
when the elements of the cause of action, including
(Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. City of La Habra, supra,
Cal.4th 809, 815), the “appreciable and actual harm” that results in
must be harm of the specific type that is recoverable as damages on
of cause of action. (Zamora v. Shell Oil Co. (1997) 55
Cal.App.4th 204, 209–210 [63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 762].)
speaking, a cause of action
accrues at "the time when the cause of action is complete
of its elements.”
“An exception to the general rule for defining the accrual of a cause
action—indeed, the ‘most important’ one—is the [delayed] discovery
rule.” (Norgart v. Upjohn Co. (1999)
21 Cal.4th 383, 397).
Wrongful death cause of actions normally accrue on the date of death. See article: Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations.
limitations can be tolled (suspended, longer) by a number of
one of many examples, many cause of
action statutes of limitations embrace the discovery rule. "[T]he
of the discovery rule [is] that a plaintiff need not file a cause of
before he or she has reason at least to suspect a factual basis for its
elements." Grisham v. Phillip Morris U.S.A.
(2007) 40 Cal.4th
623. Under the delayed discovery rule, the date of "the last element
essential to the cause of action" (that is, the typical accrual date)
have already passed. Thus, the delayed discovery rule extends the SOL
Statutes of Repose exception:
category of "statutes of
which are not that common are called "statutes of repose." A statute
of repose cuts off a right of action after a specified
period of time [Giest v. Sequoia Ventures (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th
300]. Stated another way, "a statute
repose begins when a specific event occurs, regardless of whether the
action has accrued. It cuts off a right of action even if the plaintiff
notice of the claim." Crossman v. Daimler Chrysler Corp. (2003) 108
Cal.App.4th 370. Example: California
Code of Civil Procedure Section
337.15 sets a 10-year time limit on filing a lawsuit regarding a cause
of action for latent (unknown) construction
unless there is some other exception, the SOL clock begins to run on
"substantial completion" of a development or an improvement to land,
and not from the time of damage or from discovery of the damage. Inco
Development Corp. v. Superior Court, (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 1014.
of Elements of a Cause of Action:
1. Elements of a fraud cause of action: See article:
and Misrepresentation Law
elements for a basic breach of
of a contract,
performance or excuse for non-performance,
Inc. v. Trepte Construction Co. (1971) 14 Cal.App.3d 887,
elements of a cause of action for negligence
legal duty to use due care,
breach of that duty,
reasonably close causal connection
between that breach and the plaintiff’s resulting injury, and
loss or damage to the plaintiff.
Young (1942) 20
2d 832; Ahern v. Dillenback (1991) 1 Cal. App. 4th 36.
of Statute of Limitations specific articles on this website:
of limitations, and the court rules and cases that interpret and apply
are complicated. Even if you believe that the statute of
deadline might have passed or might be extended by an exception, do not
this article, but immediately seek consultation and legal advice from a
California lawyer to determine if any of the time-extending exceptions
to the statue of limitations apply or not to your case.
provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and
applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change. No
advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is
intended. The information provided is from general sources, and
I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information
this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of
reader. Consult with your own legal
counsel before relying on any information on this website or this