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California Modifies the Tolling of Statutes of Limitations in Civil Cases

JUNE 10, 2020

Most lawsuits must be filed within a prescribed period of time, and the deadline for initiating a civil action is known as the statute of limitations. While the statute of limitations varies depending upon the type of claim contemplated in any given matter, as a rule, if it “runs out” prior to the filing of a complaint, the case is no longer valid.

Sometimes, however, the statute of limitations is suspended, or “tolled,” for a while before it begins to run again. There are several different reasons tolling may occur, one of which was triggered in response to the onset of the coronavirus crisis. In fact, on April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council of California adopted Emergency Rule No. 9, which effectively suspended the statute of limitations on all civil cases in California until 90 days after Governor Gavin Newsom lifts the current state of emergency—this in order to protect parties who have causes of action that accrued before or during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given that many courts statewide are beginning once again to process civil filings, Rule 9 was recently amended for clarification purposes and to specify new start dates for statutes of limitations. Michelman & Robinson explains how this may affect your civil case.

Q. Does Rule 9 only apply to statutes of limitation?

A. No, the amendment states that the emergency rule also applies to “statutes of repose,” which are similar to statutes of limitations, but establish different filing deadlines for certain civil cases, such as lawsuits arising out of defects in construction projects.

Q. What is the net effect of the amendment to Rule 9?

A. Effective immediately, Rule 9 has been amended to toll the statutes of limitation and repose as follows:

  • For causes of action having statutes of limitation or repose that exceed 180 days, the statutes are tolled until October 1, 2020
  • For causes of action having statutes of limitation or repose that are 180 days or less, the statutes are tolled until August 3, 2020

Q. What causes of action does Rule 9 apply to?

A. The rule is broad and applies to all civil causes of action, including special proceedings that are of a civil nature.

Of course, M&R’s litigators are here to answer any questions you may have about statutes of limitations or repose or, more broadly, civil litigation in the wake of COVID-19.

We are working diligently to keep our clients up to date on coronavirus-related developments. Nevertheless, these developments are changing daily and, in some cases even hourly, so it is important that you make sure you are dealing with the most current information. That being said, this alert is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for guidance and counsel regarding any specific concern or situation.