• The statute of limitations is a legal concept that establishes a maximum time period within which civil lawsuits must be filed in court. In most cases, the statute of limitation period commences at the point in time when the events or circumstances that gave rise to the cause of action occurred.


    The specific statute of limitations periods for lawsuits is prescribed by California state law and differs for each distinct cause of action, whether it is breach of contract or a medical malpractice action.

    Time Frame

    In California, the following limitation periods apply: two years for personal injury actions; three years for fraud; two years for products liability cases; and four years for written contracts.


    Under California law, the statute of limitations period can be tolled or held in abeyance until such time as a potential plaintiff discovers the harm or injury suffered. For example, in a medical malpractice action, the time period is three years from the date of injury or one year from the date a plaintiff has discovered he was harmed, whichever occurs first.


    The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense a defendant can raise to the court at the time a complaint is filed against him. If the time period for the underlying cause of action had expired or run out when the complaint was filed, under California law, the statute of limitations acts as an absolute bar to bringing the case and the lawsuit must be dismissed.


    The purpose of the statute of limitations is to make sure a dispute that has been dormant does not resurface in the form of a lawsuit long after the circumstances that gave rise to the matter have passed.

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