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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    21

    Default Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    My question involves personal property located in the State of: California


    I am co-owner on a piece of property that is in a gated community in the middle of the national forest. There is a Homeowners Association.

    We have an ongoing event in our national forest that is killing all the pine trees. Over 100 trees died on our 1-acre lot. The HOA has required that all the dead trees be taken down.

    My co-owner did not want to help pay to have the trees removed. This property is a triangle shape with a road on two sides. We have 5 neighbors, 5 cabin-like structures and 2 travel trailers that were close enough for the dead trees to fall on. I was forced to remove and bear the cost of the tree removal. I was concerned that a tree would fall on someone's cabin, or worse, fall on someone and kill them. This was a real threat. It cost me over $10,000.

    I have not been able to collect any money from my co-owner towards the removal of these trees and would like to sue for reimbursement in small claims court.

    My question is, what is the statute of limitations for my situation? Here is what I have found in my search for the answer but none of the below seem to apply to my situation.

    Any help is appreciated.

    Thank you.


    Personal injury: Two years from the injury. If the injury was not discovered right away, then it is 1 year from the date the injury was discovered.
    Breach of a written contract: Four years from the date the contract was broken.
    Breach of an oral contract: Two years from the date the contract was broken.
    Property damage: Three years from the date the damage occurred.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,728

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    did you speak to the co owner prior to removing the trees and who might pay for the work? . Was there any discussion as to the scope of work to be performed?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    21

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Yes, I spoke to her. She wanted to let them fall. I did not have the option to let them fall due to the liability.

    She has said she will pay me back several times but she has made no attempt to do so.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    7,400

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Quote Quoting Blueberrie
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    My question involves personal property located in the State of: California

    My question is, what is the statute of limitations for my situation? Here is what I have found in my search for the answer but none of the below seem to apply to my situation.
    This type of claim is an action for contribution. In that type of action, it is the two year statute of limitations in California Code of Civil Procedure section 339 that appears to apply. In a relatively recent unpublished opinion a California appeals court explains: "The Supreme Court held the two-year statute of limitations in section 339 began to run on any claims of the parties arising out of their cotenancy relationship as soon as the plaintiff had repudiated the agreement. (See Willmon, supra, 168 Cal.App.4th at p. 372 [once plaintiff had repudiated defendant's interest in the property by denying any cotenancy existed, 'the parties became adversaries, and as to any right or cause of action growing out of the cotenancy relationship, which might be asserted by either against the other, [including contribution,] the statute of limitations immediately began to run'].) Broukhim v. Broukhim, No. B232563, 2012 WL 925018, at *3 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 20, 2012).

    It appears that the two years would start to run either when you incurred the cost or when you made the demand for the contribution. I can't tell which it is in this context without doing a lot more digging in the case law so the safest thing would be to ensure that you file the lawsuit within two years of the earlier of the two.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    21

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Unfortunately, it has been over two years.

    Had they been allowed to fall and someone had lost their life, who would be liable?

    More trees have died and need to be removed. More will die and I am out of money.

    She has told me many times over the past 2 plus years that she will pay me back. My question now would be, every time she tells me she will pay me back does it reconstitute a new oral contract?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Quote Quoting Blueberrie
    View Post
    My question involves personal property located in the State of: California I am co-owner on a piece of property that is in a gated community in the middle of the national forest. . . . . . My question is, what is the statute of limitations for my situation?
    .

    PLEASE do not despair! The short answer is that your claim is not barred by any statute of limitations.

    You may have lost some trees, but you are not out of the woods with respect to your claim for contribution from you obstinate co-owner. In fact you are in luck legal and time wise.

    The reason has to do with the very California line of case law mentioned in the response from Taxing Matters.

    Briefly these authorities establish that the two-year period of limitations for an accounting and contribution from a fellow co-owner for expenditures made for the benefit of the property DO NOT BEGIN TO RUN unless or until the defendant has repudiated the existence of the cotenancy!

    Not my words, but those of the of the Los Angeles Superior Court in Broukhim v. Broukhim No. BC400089, as follow:

    "Nothing in Willmon established a two year limitation period for contribution actions (between co-owners) if the cotenancy has not been repudiated.''

    "To the contrary Willmon holds that the statute of limitations does not begin to run an a claim for contribution unless or until the parties ownership interest in the property becomes adversarial."


    "Here unlike Willmon and Regalado there was no evidence that either Roya or the defendant Fariborz had repudiated the cotenancy until Roya had filed her partition action and contribution claim. Accordingly, the trial court correctly ruled as a matter of law that there was no statutory bar to any of Roya's contribution claims."

    So, go ahead and file your $10K lawsuit for contribution and let your mulish co-owner attempt to squirm out of it. Then with a judgment in hand make a demand on him or her to pay up. If not, then cause a levy execution against his or her undivided ownership in the property and have the Sheriff sell it at a public auction and you bid in your judgment.(Ask your attorney for the details.)

    Good luck and keep us posted, PLEASE.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    17,129

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Blueberrie, how is it that you have a co-owner of the property?

    Explain in detail. Might have a bearing on helpful comments.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Thank you Latigo!

    This gives me the motivation to move forward.

    My co-owner is relative.

    *******************************

    Hi Adjusterjack,

    Originally myself, my mother, my uncle, and my cousin bought the property. My mother died and left me her quarter. My uncle died and left my cousin his quarter.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    15,616

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Quote Quoting Blueberrie
    View Post
    Thank you Latigo!

    This gives me the motivation to move forward.

    My co-owner is relative.

    *******************************

    Hi Adjusterjack,

    Originally myself, my mother, my uncle, and my cousin bought the property. My mother died and left me her quarter. My uncle died and left my cousin his quarter.
    Is the acreage worth any kind of significant money now? You have already put 10k into taking down pine trees and it sounds like more need to come down. Its the acreage worth the money that appears to need to be put into it?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    17,129

    Default Re: Statute of Limitations for Small Claims Court

    Quote Quoting Blueberrie
    View Post

    Hi Adjusterjack,

    Originally myself, my mother, my uncle, and my cousin bought the property. My mother died and left me her quarter. My uncle died and left my cousin his quarter.
    I figured it was something like that. Well, the reality is that you'll never see a nickel from your cousin, at least not without spending thousands on litigation. Even if you win a lawsuit, collecting is likely to be problematic unless your lawsuit is a Partition Action (google it) where you force the sale of the property and hope that the court awards you a bigger share to cover the money that you spent.

    If you aren't willing to do that, your cousin can shine you on forever.

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