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Norgart v. Upjohn Co.

Supreme Court of California

August 16, 1999, Decided

No. S071633.

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Defendant drug company sought review of a decision from the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District (California), which reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant in a wrongful death action brought by plaintiffs, father and administrator. Defendant asserted the action was barred by the statute of limitations, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §340(3), because the action was brought six years after the death.

Overview

Defendant drug company appealed a judgment that reversed the grant of its motion for summary judgment, in an action based on a claim of wrongful death that was brought six years after the death at issue. Defendant asserted the action was barred by the statute of limitations. The court held that under Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340(3), plaintiffs, father and administrator, had to bring their cause of action within one year after its accrual. In general, a claim for wrongful death accrued when the cause of action was complete with all of its elements; that is, the date of the death. The court held, even if the discovery rule applied in this case, the statute of limitations still barred the cause of action because it accrued when plaintiffs came to suspect, or had reason to suspect, a factual basis for the elements of wrongful death, which occurred, at the latest, one year after the death. Plaintiffs did not bring the cause of action within one year following the death. Accordingly, the reversal of the grant of summary judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded for consideration of plaintiffs' other claims.

Outcome

The decision that reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant drug company was reversed, and the case was remanded for consideration of other claims asserted by plaintiffs, father and administrator. Even under the more lenient rule governing accrual of a cause of action for wrongful death, plaintiffs failed to bring their action within the applicable limitations period.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Civil Procedure > ... > Statute of Limitations > Tolling of Statute of Limitations > Discovery Rule

Governments > Legislation > Statute of Limitations > Time Limitations

Governments > Legislation > Statute of Limitations > General Overview

HN1  Tolling of Statute of Limitations, Discovery Rule

Under the statute of limitations, a plaintiff must bring a cause of action within the limitations period applicable thereto after accrual of the cause of action. The general rule for defining the accrual of a cause of action sets the date as the time when the cause of action is complete with all of its elements. An exception is the discovery rule, which postpones accrual of a cause of action until the plaintiff discovers, or has reason to discover, the cause of action, until, that is, he at least suspects, or has reason to suspect, a factual basis for its elements.

 

Torts > Wrongful Death & Survival Actions > General Overview

HN2  Torts, Wrongful Death & Survival Actions

The elements of wrongful death include (1) a wrongful act or neglect on the part of one or more persons that (2) causes (3) the death of another person. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §377.60.

 

Governments > Legislation > Statute of Limitations > Pleadings & Proof

Torts > ... > Statute of Limitations > Tolling > Equitable Estoppel

Governments > Legislation > Statute of Limitations > General Overview

Governments > Legislation > Statute of Limitations > Equitable Estoppel

Governments > Legislation > Statute of Limitations > Time Limitations

Torts > Procedural Matters > Statute of Limitations > General Overview

Torts > Wrongful Death & Survival Actions > Defenses > Statute of Limitations

HN3  Statute of Limitations, Pleadings & Proof

The statute of limitations prescribe a limitations period of one year for causes of action for wrongful death, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340(3), and a limitations period of three years for causes of action for fraud, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338(d).

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21 Cal. 4th 383 ; 981 P.2d 79 ; 87 Cal. Rptr. 2d 453 ; 1999 Cal. LEXIS 5308 ; 99 Daily Journal DAR 8387; 99 Cal. Daily Op. Service 6596; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P15,605

LEO NORGART, Individually and as Administrator, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. THE UPJOHN COMPANY, Defendant and Respondent.

Prior History:  [1]  Superior Court of Sonoma County. Super. Ct. No. 193265. Laurence K. Sawyer, Judge.

Disposition: For the reasons stated above, we conclude that we must reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal, and remand the cause to that court for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion, including review of the superior court's order granting Upjohn's motion for summary judgment against the operative complaint as to the Norgarts' "survival" causes of action for fraud.