On May 29, 2020, the Judicial Council of California amended Rule No. 9 of its COVID-19 emergency regulations to add certainty and to shorten the tolling period for civil causes of action subject to statutes of limitation of 180 days or less, such as CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuits.
The new Rule is good news for developers of approved and soon-to-be approved projects. The tolling period now ends on a set and relatively near-term date, providing renewed certainty.
Previously, Rule No. 9 tolled all statutes of limitation from April 6, 2020 to the date 90 days after the Governor declares that the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted.
The new Rule establishes a date certain when all statutes of limitation for civil causes of action will commence to run, but the date is different for statutes of limitation of 180 days or less and those of more than 180 days. For actions with statutes of limitation of 180 days or less (including for CEQA actions and many other land use challenges), the tolling period will end on August 3, 2020. For all other actions, the tolling period will end on October 1, 2020.
The new Rule recognizes the reality that courts are beginning to resume operations, though the COVID-19 state of emergency may remain in place for some time. The Judicial Council also recognized, as many local agencies and representatives of the development community had urged, that the extended tolling period had a disproportionate impact on actions subject to short statute of limitation periods under otherwise applicable state law, which evidences “the Legislature’s intent that such causes of action be brought expeditiously.”