After plaintiffs filed a personal injury complaint against a defendant for injuries sustained in a California car accident, the defendant demurred to the complaint on the ground that the statute of limitations had run. The lower court sustained the demurrer and entered judgment in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that their attorney had shown an excusable error that justified relief against the statute of limitations bar. In the alternative, they requested a ruling that would toll the applicable limitations period.
An accident occurred on January 18, 2014, and the plaintiffs filed their complaint on February 16, 2016. In opposition to the defendant’s demurrer that stated that the statute of limitations had run, the plaintiffs filed an opposition on the day before the hearing. They argued that settlement negotiations had occurred, and there had been a delay in receiving medical records. Additionally, the plaintiffs’ attorney stated he had personal problems and had relied on staff personnel. While the plaintiffs argued these excuses qualified as “excusable neglect,” by law, the court sustained the demurrer for the plaintiffs’ failure to state facts sufficient to state a cause of action.
On appeal, the court stated that in the situation of a demurrer based on an affirmative defense, the court asks if the complaint makes clear the action is necessarily barred. Regarding the statute of limitations, there are policy considerations in favor of stopping tardy claims, while also disposing of claims on the merits.