California Judicial Council Revises Rule Freezing Civil Statutes of Limitation

June 4th, 2020

By: Anne Baptiste

The Judicial Council of California approved a revision to Emergency Rule 9, which previously tolled civil statutes of limitations from April 6, 2020 to 90 days after the Governor lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency. As explained in our previous blog post on the earlier version of the rule, due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear when the state of emergency will end. In recognition of this reality, the Judicial Council determined the previous iteration of Emergency Rule 9 was no longer viable.

Pursuant to the revision, statutes of limitation that are usually 180 days or less—e.g., most land use statutes of limitation—will be tolled from April 6, 2020 until August 3, 2020. Additionally, statutes of limitation that are usually greater than 180 days will be tolled From April 6, 2020 until October 1, 2020. When a statute of limitation is tolled, the limitations period stops running and begins to run again when the tolling event has concluded. (See Woods v. Young (1991) 53 Cal.3d 315, 326, fn. 3.)

This revision will alleviate the undue burden Emergency Rule 9 placed on local governments by providing a greater measure of certainty during this unprecedented time. Additionally, it acknowledges the Legislature’s intent that causes of action challenging land use projects be brought expeditiously. The specter of an open-ended statute of limitations would have severely disincentivized the planning, approval, financing, and construction of land use projects during the ongoing state of emergency. By providing a date certain for when tolled statutes of limitation will end, the revised rule mitigates the potential damage caused by tolling all civil statutes of limitation.

Example: If a notice of exemption (NOE) (with a 35-day CEQA statute of limitations) was issued on April 1, 2020, the statute of limitation would run from April 2, 2020 to April 5, 2020. Then, it would be tolled from April 6, 2020 until August 3, 2020. Therefore, on August 3, 2020, the remaining 31 days under the statute of limitations would begin running again and would expire on September 2, 2020.