Updated on April 13, 2020
The California Judicial Council has tolled the Statute of Limitations during these times of coronavirus emergency.
The legal time we are living in is quite remarkable. The Coronavirus is tearing through legal norms. Courts are closed, in person court appearances are not happening, trials are delayed and now the statute of limitations is tolled. The California Judicial Council met last week. The Judicial Council is made of up various members of the legal community, including the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, members of the court, legislature and attorneys. The Judicial Council establishes rules for courts.
On April 6, 2020, the California Judicial Council adopted 11 temporary emergency rules affecting the California court system. Emergency rule 9 provides:
Notwithstanding any other law, the statutes of limitation for civil causes of action are tolled from April 6, 2020, until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted.
This is unprecedented but warranted. That means that if you have a cause of action that is about to expire because the statute of limitations is set to expire in the near future, you have more time to file your claim. In fact, you have until 90 days after the Governor declares the state of emergency is over.
When is that going to be? Who knows. Hopefully soon, but none of us know.
It is important to know, in general, the role a statute of limitations can play. The limitations period is the period during which a plaintiff can seek redress (file a complaint) for the harm they have suffered. If the plaintiff fails to file their claim within the applicable limitations period (usually 1 to 5 years depending on the type of claim), then the defendant can raise the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense. This means that the defendant can defend against the merits of the complaint by simply saying that the plaintiff waited too long to bring their claim. If the plaintiff indeed waited too long, then the merits of the case may never be reached. Defendant can win on a technicality.
For now, the emergency rule tolling the statute of limitations will allow parties additional time to file their claims. That said, missing the time to file your claim can forever time bar it. It is important to have a lawyer analyze what the true statute of limitations is in normal times, calendar that date and then watch for the lifting of this temporary pause.
For help with your matter, contact our Schorr Law attorneys today. We have extensive experience analyzing the facts and law required for a proper statute of limitations analysis. You can send us a message by filling out our contact form, text us at (310) 706-2265, or call us at (310) 954-1877.