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Statute of Limitations - Fraud - Delayed Discovery Rule - California Law

Statute of Limitations: A fraud (deceit, intentional misrepresentation) lawsuit is required to be filed within three years before plaintiff either discovered facts constituting the fraud or with reasonable diligence could have (should have) discovered those facts, whichever comes first. Sun'n Sand, Inc. v. United California Bank (1978) 21 Cal.3d 671, 701; Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 797, 808; Kline v. Turner (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 1369, 1374.

The delayed-discovery rule in fraud cases applies and is codified in California Code of Civil Procedure 338(d):

“Within three years: (d) An action for relief on the ground of fraud or mistake…[is] not deemed to have accrued until the discovery, by the aggrieved party, of the facts constituting the fraud or mistake.”

“This discovery element [triggering the 3-year statute of limitations time clock] has been interpreted to mean ‘the discovery by the aggrieved party of the fraud or facts that would lead a reasonably prudent person to suspect fraud.’ ” Doe v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Sacramento (2010) 189 Cal.App.4th 1423, 1430.

Burden of Pleading and Proof: Usually the defendant has the burden to plead and prove that the statute of limitations has run.   But when the delayed discovery rule is at issue, such as with fraud causes of action, plaintiff has the burden of pleading and proving that he or she did not make the discovery until more than three years after the filing of the complaint. Samuels v. Mix (1999) 22 Cal.4th 1, 14.

Therefore, it is safest, if possible, for the aggrieved plaintiff to file a lawsuit based on fraud, deceit, and/or intentional misrepresentation within three years of the date that misrepresentation first occurred to avoid having the burden of pleading and proving reasonable diligence.

"Negligent" Misrepresentation: The statute of limitations for an action for negligent misrepresentation is two years - Butcher v. Truck Ins. Exchange (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 1442, 1467-1468.)   A claim for intentional or negligent misrepresentation accrues when a plaintiff is on notice that the defendant has made the misrepresentation. (E-Fab, Inc. v. Accountants, Inc. Services (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1308, 1323.). Why 2-years and not 3-years? "Negligent misrepresentation is born of the union of negligence and fraud. If negligence is the mother and misrepresentation the father, it more closely resembles its mother." Ventura County Nat. Bank v. Macker (1996) 49 Cal. App. 4th 1528, 1531. 

Further see Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations.

List of Statute of Limitations specific articles on this website:



Accrual Statute of Limitations

Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Legal Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Defamation Statute of Limitations

Fraud Statute of Limitation

Government Claim Statute of Limitations

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations


SOL laws are complicated: Statutes of limitations, and the court rules and cases that interpret and apply them, are complicated.  Even if you believe that the statute of limitation deadline might have passed or might be extended by an exception, do not rely on this article, but immediately seek consultation and legal advice from a knowledgeable California lawyer to determine if any of the time-extending exceptions or rules to the statue of limitations apply or not to your case.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change.  No legal advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended.  The information provided is from general sources, and I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of any reader.  Consult with your own legal counsel before relying on any information on this website or this article.

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