Foreclosing Relief for Violations of the Statute of Limitations in California

Code of Civil Procedure section 473 "has been interpreted to exclude relief from default caused by failure to comply with the statute of limitations. . . . 'Statutes of limitations "'are, of necessity, adamant rather than flexible in nature . . . .'" When the Legislature has decided to introduce an element of flexibility in a particular instance, it has expressly provided for extension of the limitation period on a showing of good cause, and courts have interpreted the "good cause" standard as equivalent to a showing under section 473. . . . In the absence of such a specific provision for extension, it must be inferred the Legislature did not intend to permit relief on grounds of good cause or under section 473.'" (Castro v. Sacramento County Fire Protection District (1996) 47 Cal.App.4th 927, 930 (Castro); see id. at pp. 933-934.) In Castro, the Court held this rule foreclosing relief for violations of the statute of limitations applied not only to the discretionary relief, but also to a 1992 amendment concerning the mandatory relief commanded by Code of Civil Procedure section 473 when the plaintiff's attorney submits a sworn affidavit attesting to his or her mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or neglect. (Code Civ. Proc., 473, subd. (b).) To allow relief under Code of Civil Procedure section 473 would "create a loophole through which a plaintiff may escape the bar of the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations are a fundamental aspect of our legal system. They are '"vital to the welfare of society and are favored in the law."' 'Statutes of limitations traditionally play a valid role in laying stale causes to rest and providing finality and repose without the need for any court adjudication. '" (Castro, supra, 47 Cal.App.4th at p. 933.) Citing this court's decision in Castro, the court in Life Savings Bank v. Wilhelm (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 174, held that Code of Civil Procedure section 473 "does not provide relief from such errors that result in the running of the applicable statute of limitations. " (Id. at p. 177.)