Equitable tolling of the statute of limitations in California is the topic of this blog post. The statute of limitations may be equitably tolled which essentially suspends the time limitation for filing a particular action under certain circumstances. Equitable tolling is a doctrine created by the courts that recognizes some implicit exceptions where a purely technical application of procedural rules would result in a manifest injustice.
For example in one case the Plaintiff’s lawyer was hit by a car and seriously injured. While he was incapacitated, the statute of limitations ran on one of his cases. The statute of limitations was equitably tolled pursuant to Civil Code § 3531 which states: “The law never requires impossibilities.” Lewis v. Superior Court (1985) 175 Cal. App. 3d 366, 380. And the same court also stated that a catastrophic fire or earthquake could also invoke the impossibility grounds, see Lewis supra, 175 Cal. App. 3d at page 378.
Other cases have involved interference. In one case the defendant’s conduct contributed to the plaintiff’s delay in filing his lawsuit. Bollinger v National Fire Ins. Co. (1944) 25 Cal. 2d 399, 411.
And the limitations period is also extended when a person has several legal remedies and, “reasonably and in good faith,” “timely” meaning within the statute of limitations pursues one of them but believing the second “similar” claim is unnecessary or can’t be filed until the first remedy is pursued; and the defendant is not prejudiced because the first claim alerts the defendant to begin investigating the facts which form the basis for the second factually similar claim. Collier v. City of Pasadena (1983) 142 Cal. App. 3d 917, 924-926; see also Myers v. County of Orange (1970) 6 Cal. App. 3d 626, 634.
This blog post contains some very valuable information that just might revive a case where the statute of limitations may be seemingly blown. Future blog posts will discuss other examples of tolling of the statute of limitations in California.
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The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995. If you are in need of assistance with any California or Federal litigation matters, Mr. Burman is available on a freelance basis. Mr. Burman may be contacted by e-mail at DivParalgl@yahoo.com for more information. He accepts payments through PayPal which means that you can pay using most credit or debit cards.
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