CACI 454 Affirmative Defense—Statute of Limitations

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

454 Affirmative Defense—Statute of Limitations

[Name of defendant] contends that [name of plaintiff]’s lawsuit was not filed within the time set by law. To succeed on this defense, [name of defendant] must prove that [name of plaintiff]’s claimed harm occurred before [insert date from applicable statute of limitation].

Directions for Use

This instruction states the common-law rule that an action accrues on the date of injury. (Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co. (1988) 44 Cal.3d 1103, 1109 [245 Cal.Rptr. 658, 751 P.2d 923].) The date to be inserted is the applicable limitation period before the filing date. For example, if the limitation period is two years and the filing date is August 31, 2007, the date is August 31, 2005.

For an instruction on the delayed-discovery rule, see CACI No. 455Statute of Limitations—Delayed Discovery. See also verdict form CACI No. VF-410Statute of Limitations—Delayed Discovery—Reasonable Investigation Would Not Have Disclosed Pertinent Facts.

Do not use this instruction for attorney malpractice. (See CACI No. 610Affirmative Defense—Statute of Limitations—Attorney Malpractice—One-Year Limit, and CACI No. 611Affirmative Defense—Statute of Limitations—Attorney Malpractice—Four-Year Limit.)

“Claimed harm” refers to all of the elements of the cause of action, which must have occurred before the cause of action accrues and the limitation period begins. (Glue-Fold, Inc. v. Slautterback Corp. (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 1018, 1029 [98 Cal.Rptr.2d 661].) In some cases, it may be necessary to modify this term to refer to specific facts that give rise to the cause of action.

Sources and Authority

Two-Year Statute of Limitations. Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1.

Three-Year Statute of Limitations. Code of Civil Procedure section 338(c).

One-Year Statute of Limitations. Code of Civil Procedure section 340.2(c).

“A limitation period does not begin until a cause of action accrues, i.e., all essential elements are present and a claim becomes legally actionable.” (Glue-Fold, Inc., supra, 82 Cal.App.4th at p. 1029, internal citations omitted.)

“ ‘ “ ‘ “Ordinarily this is when the wrongful act is done and the obligation or the liability arises, but it does not ‘accrue until the party owning it is entitled to begin and prosecute an action thereon.’ ” … In other words, “[a] cause of action accrues ‘upon the occurrence of the last element essential to the cause of action.’ ” ’ ” ’ ” (Choi v. Sagemark Consulting (2017) 18 Cal.App.5th 308, 323 [226 Cal.Rptr.3d 267], original italics.)

“It is undisputed that plaintiffs discovered shortly after the accident in 2010 that [defendant] had failed to secure the insurance coverage plaintiffs requested. Thus, this case does not involve the delayed discovery doctrine, which makes ‘accrual of a cause of action contingent on when a party discovered or should have discovered that his or her injury had a wrongful cause.’ In delayed discovery cases, ‘plaintiffs are required to conduct a reasonable investigation after becoming aware of an injury, and are charged with knowledge of the information that would have been revealed by such an investigation.’ Here, the question is when plaintiffs incurred ‘actual injury’—not when they discovered [defendant]’s negligence. The trial court erred to the extent that it relied on the delayed discovery doctrine to determine when plaintiffs incurred actual injury.” (Lederer v. Gursey Schneider LLP (2018) 22 Cal.App.5th 508, 521 [231 Cal.Rptr.3d 518], internal citations omitted.)

“Where, as here, ‘damages are an element of a cause of action, the cause of action does not accrue until the damages have been sustained. … “Mere threat of future harm, not yet realized, is not enough.” … “Basic public policy is best served by recognizing that damage is necessary to mature such a cause of action.” … Therefore, when the wrongful act does not result in immediate damage, “the cause of action does not accrue prior to the maturation of perceptible harm.” ’ ” (Thomson v. Canyon (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 594, 604 [129 Cal.Rptr.3d 525].)

“ ‘[O]nce plaintiff has suffered actual and appreciable harm, neither the speculative nor uncertain character of damages nor the difficulty of proof will toll the period of limitation.’ Cases contrast actual and appreciable harm with nominal damages, speculative harm or the threat of future harm. The mere breach of duty—causing only nominal damages, speculative harm or the threat of future harm not yet realized—normally does not suffice to create a cause of action.” (San Francisco Unified School Dist. v. W. R. Grace & Co. (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 1318, 1326 [44 Cal.Rptr.2d 305], internal citations omitted.)

“Violations of a continuing or recurring obligation may give rise to ‘continuous accrual’ of causes of action, meaning that ‘ “a cause of action accrues each time a wrongful act occurs, triggering a new limitations period.” [Citation.]’ ” (Esparza v. Safeway, Inc. (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 42, 59 [247 Cal.Rptr.3d 875].)

“Generally, the bar of the statute of limitations is raised as an affirmative defense, subject to proof by the defendant.” (Czajkowski v. Haskell & White (2012) 208 Cal.App.4th 166, 174 [144 Cal.Rptr.3d 522].)

“ ‘[R]esolution of the statute of limitations issue is normally a question of fact … .’ ” (Romano v. Rockwell Int’l, Inc. (1996) 14 Cal.4th 479, 487 [59 Cal.Rptr.2d 20, 926 P.2d 1114].)

“Commencement of the statute of limitations is usually a factual question, but can be resolved as a matter of law when, as here, the material facts are not disputed.” Moss v. Duncan (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 569, 574 [248 Cal.Rptr.3d 689].)

“Because the relevant facts are not in dispute, the application of the statute of limitations may be decided as a question of law.” (Lederer, supra, 22 Cal.App.5th at p. 521.)

“Based upon our review of legal precedent and our understanding of the principles and policies of the continuous accrual theory, we conclude that the theory is not limited in its application to cases in which a payor has acted ‘wrongfully’ in the sense of failing or refusing to make a periodic payment to a payee.” (Blaser v. State Teachers’ Retirement System (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 349, 372 [249 Cal.Rptr.3d 701].)

“So long as the time allowed for filing an action is not inherently unreasonable, California courts afford ‘contracting parties considerable freedom to modify the length of a statute of limitations.’ ” (Wind Dancer Production Group v. Walt Disney Pictures (2017) 10 Cal.App.5th 56, 74 [215 Cal.Rptr.3d 835].)

Secondary Sources

4 Witkin, California Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Actions, §§ 493–507, 553–592, 673
5 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 71, Commencement, Prosecution, and Dismissal of Tort Actions, §§ 71.01–71.06 (Matthew Bender)
30 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 345, Limitation of Actions, §§ 345.19345.20 (Matthew Bender)
33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence, § 380.150 (Matthew Bender)
14 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 143, Limitation of Actions, § 143.20 et seq. (Matthew Bender)
1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Pretrial Civil Procedure, Ch. 4, Limitation of Actions, 4.05, 4.14, 4.38, 4.39