CACI No. 456. Defendant Estopped From Asserting Statute of Limitations Defense

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2020 edition)

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456.Defendant Estopped From Asserting Statute of Limitations
Defense
[Name of plaintiff] claims that even if [his/her/nonbinary pronoun/its]
lawsuit was not filed on time, [he/she/nonbinary pronoun/it] may still
proceed because [name of defendant] did or said something that caused
[name of plaintiff] to delay filing the lawsuit. In order to establish the
right to proceed, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:
1. That [name of defendant] said or did something that caused [name
of plaintiff] to believe that it would not be necessary to file a
lawsuit;
2. That [name of plaintiff] relied on [name of defendant]’s conduct
and therefore did not file the lawsuit within the time otherwise
required;
3. That a reasonable person in [name of plaintiff]’s position would
have relied on [name of defendant]’s conduct; [and]
[4. That after the limitation period had expired, [name of defendant]’s
representations by words or conduct proved to not be true; and]
5. That [name of plaintiff] proceeded diligently to file suit once [he/
she/nonbinary pronoun/it] discovered the need to proceed.
It is not necessary that [name of defendant] have acted in bad faith or
intended to mislead [name of plaintiff].
New October 2008; Revised December 2014, June 2015, May 2020
Directions for Use
Equitable estoppel, including any disputed issue of fact, is to be decided by the
court, even if there are disputed issues of fact. (Hopkins v. Kedzierski (2014) 225
Cal.App.4th 736, 745 [170 Cal.Rptr.3d 551].) This instruction is for use if the court
submits the issue to the jury for advisory findings.
There is perhaps a question as to whether all the elements of equitable estoppel
must be proved in order to establish an estoppel to rely on a statute of limitations.
These elements are (1) the party to be estopped must know the facts; (2) the party
must intend that the party’s conduct will be acted on, or must act in such a way that
the party asserting the estoppel had the right to believe that the conduct was so
intended; (3) the party asserting the estoppel must be ignorant of the true state of
facts; and, (4) that party must rely upon the conduct to the party’s detriment. (See
Ashou v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co. (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 748, 766-767 [41
Cal.Rptr.3d 819]; see also Olofsson v. Mission Linen Supply (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th
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1236, 1246 [150 Cal.Rptr.3d 446] [equitable estoppel to deny family leave under
California Family Rights Act].)
Most cases do not frame the issue as one of equitable estoppel and its four
elements. All that is required is that the defendant’s conduct actually have misled
the plaintiff, and that plaintiff reasonably have relied on that conduct. Bad faith or
an intent to mislead is not required. (Lantzy v. Centex Homes (2003) 31 Cal.4th 363,
384 [2 Cal.Rptr.3d 655, 73 P.3d 517]; Shaffer v. Debbas (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 33,
43 [21 Cal.Rptr.2d 110].) Nor does it appear that there is a requirement that the
defendant specifically intended to induce the plaintiff to defer filing suit. Therefore,
no specific intent element has been included. However, the California Supreme
Court has stated that element 4 is to be given in a construction defect case in which
the defendant has assured the plaintiff that all defects will be repaired. (See Lantzy,
supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 384.)
Sources and Authority
• “As the name suggests, equitable estoppel is an equitable issue for court
resolution.” (Hopkins,supra, 225 Cal.App.4th at p. 745.)
• “While the judge determines equitable causes of action, the judge may (in rare
instances) empanel an advisory jury to make preliminary factual findings. The
factual findings are purely advisory because, on equitable causes of action, the
judge is the proper fact finder. ‘[W]hile a jury may be used for advisory verdicts
as to questions of fact [in equitable actions], it is the duty of the trial court to
make its own independent findings and to adopt or reject the findings of the jury
as it deems proper.’ ” (Hoopes v. Dolan (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 146, 156 [85
Cal.Rptr.3d 337], internal citations omitted.)
• “[CACI No. 456 is] appropriate for use when a trial court ‘empanel[s] an
advisory jury to make preliminary factual findings,’ with respect to equitable
estoppel . . . .” (Hopkins,supra, 225 Cal.App.4th at p. 745.)
• “Equitable tolling and equitable estoppel are distinct doctrines. ‘ “Tolling, strictly
speaking, is concerned with the point at which the limitations period begins to
run and with the circumstances in which the running of the limitations period
may be suspended. . . . Equitable estoppel, however, . . . comes into play only
after the limitations period has run and addresses . . . the circumstances in
which a party will be estopped from asserting the statute of limitations as a
defense to an admittedly untimely action because his conduct has induced
another into forbearing suit within the applicable limitations period. [Equitable
estoppel] is wholly independent of the limitations period itself and takes its life
. . . from the equitable principle that no man [may] profit from his own
wrongdoing in a court of justice.” ’ Thus, equitable estoppel is available even
where the limitations statute at issue expressly precludes equitable tolling.”
(Lantzy, supra, 31 Cal.4th at pp. 383-384, internal citations omitted.)
• “Accordingly, (1) if one potentially liable for a construction defect represents,
while the limitations period is still running, that all actionable damage has been
or will be repaired, thus making it unnecessary to sue, (2) the plaintiff
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reasonably relies on this representation to refrain from bringing a timely action,
(3) the representation proves false after the limitations period has expired, and
(4) the plaintiff proceeds diligently once the truth is discovered, the defendant
may be equitably estopped to assert the statute of limitations as a defense to the
action.” (Lantzy, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 384, internal citations omitted.)
• “Equitable estoppel does not require factually misleading statements in all
cases.” (J. P. v. Carlsbad Unified Sch. Dist. (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 323, 335
[181 Cal.Rptr.3d 286].)
• “ ‘An estoppel may arise although there was no designed fraud on the part of the
person sought to be estopped. . . . To create an equitable estoppel, “it is enough
if the party has been induced to refrain from using such means or taking such
action as lay in his power, by which he might have retrieved his position and
saved himself from loss. . . . Where the delay in commencing action is induced
by the conduct of the defendant it cannot be availed of by him as a defense.” ’ ”
(Vu v. Prudential Property & Casualty Ins. Co. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 1142,
1152-1153 [113 Cal.Rptr.2d 70, 33 P.3d 487].)
• [T]he parties may, by their words or conduct, be estopped from enforcing a
written contract provision. Under the doctrine of estoppel, ‘[a] defendant may be
equitably estopped from asserting a statutory or contractual limitations period as
a defense if the defendant’s act or omission caused the plaintiff to refrain from
filing a timely suit and the plaintiff’s reliance on the defendant’s conduct was
reasonable.’ ‘ “It is not necessary that the defendant acted in bad faith or
intended to mislead the plaintiff. [Citations.] It is sufficient that the defendant’s
conduct in fact induced the plaintiff to refrain from instituting legal proceedings.
[Citation.]” ’ (Wind Dancer Production Group v. Walt Disney Pictures (2017) 10
Cal.App.5th 56, 78-79 [215 Cal.Rptr.3d 835].)
• “ ‘ “[W]hether an estoppel exists - whether the acts, representations or conduct
lulled a party into a sense of security preventing him from instituting
proceedings before the running of the statute, and whether the party relied
thereon to his prejudice - is a question of fact and not of law.” [Citations.]’ ”
(Holdgrafer v. Unocal Corp. (2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 907, 925-926 [73
Cal.Rptr.3d 216], internal citations omitted.)
• “It is well settled that a public entity may be estopped from asserting the
limitations of the claims statute where its agents or employees have prevented or
deterred the filing of a timely claim by some affirmative act. Estoppel most
commonly results from misleading statements about the need for or advisability
of a claim; actual fraud or the intent to mislead is not essential. A fortiori,
estoppel may certainly be invoked when there are acts of violence or
intimidation that are intended to prevent the filing of a claim.” (John R. v.
Oakland Unified Sch. Dist. (1989) 48 Cal.3d 438, 445 [256 Cal.Rptr. 766, 769
P.2d 948], internal citations omitted.)
• “ ‘Estoppel as a bar to a public entity’s assertion of the defense of
noncompliance arises when the plaintiff establishes by a preponderance of the
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evidence: (1) the public entity was apprised of the facts, (2) it intended its
conduct to be acted upon, (3) plaintiff was ignorant of the true state of facts, and
(4) relied upon the conduct to his detriment.’ ” (J.P. supra, 232 Cal.App.4th at p.
333.)
• “It is well settled that the doctrine of estoppel in pais is applicable in a proper
case to prevent a fraudulent or inequitable resort to the statute of limitations.”
(Estate of Pieper (1964) 224 Cal.App.2d 670, 690-691 [37 Cal.Rptr. 46],
internal citations omitted.)
• “Although ‘ignorance of the identity of the defendant . . . will not toll the
statute’, ‘a defendant may be equitably estopped from asserting the statute of
limitations when, as the result of intentional concealment, the plaintiff is unable
to discover the defendant’s actual identity.’ ” (Vaca v. Wachovia Mortgage Corp.
(2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 737, 745 [129 Cal.Rptr.3d 354], original italics, internal
citation omitted.)
• “Settlement negotiations are relevant and admissible to prove an estoppel to
assert the statute of limitations.” (Holdgrafer, supra, 160 Cal.App.4th at p. 927.)
• “The estoppel issue in this case arises in a unique context. Defendants’ wrongful
conduct has given rise to separate causes of action for property damage and
personal injury with separate statutes of limitation. Where the plaintiffs
reasonably rely on defendants’ promise to repair the property damage without a
lawsuit, is a jury permitted to find that plaintiffs’ decision to delay filing a
personal injury lawsuit was also reasonable? We conclude such a finding is
permissible on the facts of this case.” (Shaffer, supra, 17 Cal.App.4th at p. 43,
internal citation omitted.)
• “At the very least, [plaintiff] cannot establish the second element necessary for
equitable estoppel. [Plaintiff] argues that [defendant] was estopped to rely on the
time bar of section 340.9 by its continued reconsideration of her claim after
December 31, 2001, had passed. But she cannot prove [defendant] intended its
reconsideration of the claim to be relied upon, or acted in such a way that
[plaintiff] had a right to believe it so intended.” (Ashou, supra, 138 Cal.App.4th
at p. 767.)
• “ ‘It is well settled that a public entity may be estopped from asserting the
limitations of the claims statute where its agents or employees have prevented or
deterred the filing of a timely claim by some affirmative act.’ Estoppel as a bar
to a public entity’s assertion of the defense of noncompliance arises when a
plaintiff establishes by a preponderance of the evidence (1) the public entity was
apprised of the facts, (2) it intended its conduct to be acted upon, (3) the
plaintiff was ignorant of the true state of facts, and (4) relied upon the conduct
to his detriment.” (K.J. v. Arcadia Unified School Dist. (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th
1229, 1239-1240 [92 Cal.Rptr.3d 1], internal citation omitted.)
• “A nondisclosure is a cause of injury if the plaintiff would have acted so as to
avoid injury had the plaintiff known the concealed fact. The plaintiff’s reliance
on a nondisclosure was reasonable if the plaintiff’s failure to discover the
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concealed fact was reasonable in light of the plaintiff’s knowledge and
experience. Whether the plaintiff’s reliance was reasonable is a question of fact
for the trier of fact unless reasonable minds could reach only one conclusion
based on the evidence. The fact that a plaintiff was represented by counsel and
the scope and timing of the representation are relevant to the question of the
reasonableness of the plaintiff’s reliance.” (Superior Dispatch, Inc. v. Insurance
Corp. of New York (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 175, 187-188 [104 Cal.Rptr.3d 508],
internal citations omitted.)
Secondary Sources
3 Witkin, California Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Actions, §§ 566-581
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 5-B, When To
Sue - Statute Of Limitations, ¶ 5:111.6 (The Rutter Group)
5 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 71, Commencement, Prosecution, and Dismissal
of Action, § 71.06 (Matthew Bender)
30 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 345, Limitation of Actions,
§ 345.81 (Matthew Bender)
14 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 143, Limitation of Actions, § 143.50
(Matthew Bender)
1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Pretrial Civil Procedure, Ch. 4,
Limitation of Actions, 4.42
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