California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

454. Affirmative Defense—Statute of Limitations

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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].
New April 2007; Revised December 2007
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. 455, Statute of
Limitations—Delayed Discovery. See also verdict form CACI No. VF-410, Statute
of Limitations—Delayed Discovery—Reasonable Investigation Would Not Have
Disclosed Pertinent Facts.
Do not use this instruction for attorney malpractice. (See CACI No. 610,
Affırmative Defense—Statute of Limitations—Attorney Malpractice—One-Year
Limit, and CACI No. 611, Affırmative 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.)
• “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.)
• “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 Internat., Inc. (1996) 14 Cal.4th 479, 487 [59
Cal.Rptr.2d 20, 926 P.2d 1114].)
Secondary Sources
3 Witkin, California Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Actions, §§ 493–507, 553–592, 673
5Levy 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,
§§ 345.19, 345.20 (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,
§§ 143.20–143.65 (Matthew Bender)
1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Pretrial Civil Procedure, Ch. 4,
Limitation of Actions, 4.05, 4.14, 4.38, 4.39