The statute of limitations period, the period in which a plaintiff must bring suit or be barred, runs from the moment a claim accrues. Traditionally a cause of action accrues when it is complete with all of its elements: wrongdoing, harm, and causation.
This is known as the last element accrual rule. Ordinarily the statute of limitations runs from the occurrence of the last element essential to the cause of action. Over time there has developed a handful of equitable exceptions and modifications to this rule. One such exception is the continuous accrual rule.
Where a series of wrongs or injuries may be viewed as each triggering its own limitations period, such that a suit for relief may be partially time-barred as to older events but timely as to newer ones, courts have traditionally applied the continuous accrual rule exception to allow claims based upon the newer events to proceed.
In Aryeh v. Cannon Business Solutions, Inc. the California Supreme Court resolved a split of authority among the Courts of Appeal, and federal decisions construing California law, and held that claims brought under the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”; Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq.) are subject to the traditional rules of accrual.
That a cause of action is labeled a UCL claim is not dispositive. The nature of the right sued upon and the circumstances attending its invocation control the point of accrual. The common law last element accrual rule is the default. Exceptions apply to the extent the preconditions for their application are met, as would be true under any other statute, including the continuous accrual rule exception.
I consult with clients and accept cases when the statute of limitations may be determinative to the outcome, including cases involving the Unfair Competition Law. For other types of cases I accept, please consult the My Practice page. If you are seeking a legal consult or representation, please give me a call at 818.971.9409. – Michael Daymude