Many thanks to the reliable JS for emailing me about Aryeh v. Canon Business Solutions, Inc., ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Jun. 22, 2010), in which the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Eight) addressed the UCL's statute of limitations. The trial court sustained the defendant's demurrer without leave to amend, holding the claims time-barred, and the Court of Appeal affirmed by a 2-1 vote.
The majority accepts the idea that the "discovery rule" does not apply in UCL cases, without considering the split in authority on that point. Slip op. at 6 (citing Snapp & Associates Ins. Services, Inc. v. Robertson, 96 Cal.App.4th 884 (2002)); but see Broberg v. The Guardian Life Ins. Co., 171 Cal.App.4th 912 (2009). (The dissent, however, notes the split. Dissent, slip op. at 1 n.1.)
The opinion goes on to hold that the "continuing violations" doctrine does not apply in UCL cases. Slip op. at 8-13. The opinion concludes: "The statute of limitations on a UCL action begins to run upon accrual unless equitably tolled." Id. at 13.The dissenting opinion holds that "the similarly named but conceptually distinct 'continuous accrual' doctrine is applicable," rather than the "continuing violations" doctrine. Dissent, slip op. at 2. The dissent explains:
The continuing violation doctrine ... is implicated only when recovery is sought for some conduct that falls within the statute of limitations and some that falls outside the statute. If appellant were arguing that his pre-January 31, 2004 claims are nevertheless actionable because the continuing violation rule allows them to be joined with his timely claims, then we would have the issue the majority raises: Does the continuing violation rule apply to UCL claims? But that is not appellant’s argument.
Appellant’s contention is much simpler: respondent’s conduct in violating the terms of the parties’ agreement comprised a series of unfair business practices. Those acts occurring within four years of the filing of the complaint are actionable. Those that occurred earlier are barred by the statute of limitations.
Id. at 3-4 (emphasis in original). The dissent thus concludes that the demurrer was improperly overruled because it asserted at least some timely claims. Id. at 10.
The majority and dissenting opinions in this case are worth a full read.