To survive a demurrer in a civil case, the plaintiff must assert his claims before the statute of limitations expires. However, the statutory deadline may be extended—or tolled—if, among other reasons, the plaintiff is “imprisoned on a criminal charge” when the cause of action accrues. A cause of action accrues when a party is entitled to prosecute an action based upon it.
In a case of first impression, the Second Appellate District holds in Austin v. Medicis that a plaintiff is “imprisoned on a criminal charge” within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 352.1 when plaintiff is serving a term of imprisonment in state prison–not when plaintiff is merely incarcerated, pretrial, in the county jail.
Determining when the statute of limitations expires is not always easy. This is particularly true in medical malpractice cases which are governed by two Code of Civil Procedure sections: 340.5 and 364. Additionally, other statutes may act to toll the applicable statute of limitations. One such statute is Insurance Code section 11583. It provides that the applicable statute of limitations is tolled when advance or partial payment is made to an injured and unrepresented person without notifying him of the applicable limitations period. Continue reading →