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New Laws Every Civil Lawyer Needs to Know


With the beginning of a new year, a number of new laws affecting civil procedure have taken effect.1 Some of the most important are summarized below2 :

1. Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault of an Adult
New Code of Civil Procedure sec. 340.16 provides that for cases commenced on or after January 1, 2019, where a sexual assault occurred on or after the plaintiff’s eighteenth birthday, the limitations period is the later of (1) 10 years from the date of the last act, attempted acts, or assault with the intent to commit an act of sexual assault by the defendant against the plaintiff; or (2) three years from the date that the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered that an injury or illness resulted from such an act.

2. Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem under a Pseudonym
New Code of Civil Procedure sec. 372.5 authorizes the appointment of a guardian ad litem under a pseudonym and details the findings required to grant that relief, which is sought by ex parte application. Where the statutory requisites are met, the court may make any further orders necessary to preserve the applicant’s anonymity. It may also require an unrepresented guardian ad litem to designate a mailing or electronic address for service of process and require her/him to accept service of process under the pseudonym at that address. The court may also allow other parties or financial institutions to know the applicant’s identity to the extent necessary to prosecute, defend, or resolve the action.

3. Time to Rule on Motion for New Trial Extended to 75 Days
Code of Civil Procedure sec. sec. 660 and 663(a) are amended to extend the expiration of the court’s power to rule on a motion for new trial or to set aside and vacate a judgment from 60 to 75 days after notice of entry of the judgment is given or, if no notice is given, 75 days after the first notice of intention to move for a new trial or to set aside and vacate a judgment is filed.

4. Notice Periods in Unlawful Detainer Actions to Exclude Weekends and Holidays
Amendments to Code of Civil Procedure sec. sec. 1161 and 1167 (taking effect September 1, 2019) exclude weekends and court holidays from the notice period on an unlawful detainer three-day notice and from the five days to respond following service of an unlawful detainer complaint.

5. Limitations on Waivers & Confidentiality in Contracts & Settlement Agreements
Newly-enacted Civil Code sec. 1670.11 renders unenforceable any provision of a contract or settlement agreement entered into on or after January 1, 2019 that waives a party’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment on the part of the other party to the contract, or its agents or employees, where such appearance has been compelled or requested by court order, subpoena, or written request from an administrative agency or the Legislature. Additionally, newly-enacted Code of Civil Procedure sec. 1001 prohibits settlements from including any provision that prevents disclosure of factual information related to sexual assault, acts of sexual harassment or discrimination, or retaliation for reporting the same. Any such provision entered into on or after January 1, 2019 is void as a matter of law. However, at the request of a claimant, a provision may be included that shields the identity of the claimant and all facts that could lead to the discovery of his or her identity, except where a government agency or public official is a party to the agreement. The agreement may also preclude disclosure of the amount paid in settlement of a claim.

6. Change in Criteria for Declining to Compel Arbitration
Code of Civil Procedure sec. 1281.2 has been amended so that a court need not order arbitration of a controversy despite a written agreement calling for arbitration where the court finds that grounds exist for rescission of the agreement. This change replaces former subsection (b), which provided that the court need not order arbitration upon a determination that grounds for revocation of the agreement existed. The term “revocation” is now omitted from the statute.

7. Disclosure of Immigration Status in Court
Newly-enacted Evidence Code secs. 351.3 and 351.4 prohibit disclosing evidence of a person’s immigration status in open court unless the judge first determines in an in camera hearing requested by the party seeking to disclose that status that such evidence is admissible. Certain exceptions apply, including situations where a person’s immigration status is necessary to prove an element of a cause of action or an affirmative defense.

8. Required Mediation Confidentiality Disclosure
Newly-enacted Evidence Code sec. 1129 requires an attorney representing a client participating in a mediation or mediation consultation to provide the client with a printed disclosure containing prescribed confidentiality restrictions and obtain from the client a signed acknowledgment that he or she has read and understands those restrictions. The disclosure must be provided as soon as reasonably possible before the client agrees to participate in the mediation, or as soon as possible after the attorney has been retained if the attorney is retained after the client has agreed to participate in the mediation.

9. Attorney’s Fees in Public Records Act Cases
Government Code sec. 6259 has been amended to provide that a court shall award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to a prevailing “requester” in an action filed pursuant to the California Public Records Act, and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to the public agency if the court finds that the requester’s case is clearly frivolous.

10. Misuse of Personal Identifying Information in Business Entity Filings
Newly Civil Code secs. 1798.200-1798.202 establish a procedure for a person to petition a court for an order compelling a business entity that he or she has learned, or reasonably suspects, has used his or her personal identifying information unlawfully in a business entity filingto appear in court to show cause why that information should not be labeled to show that it is impersonated and why the information should be associated with the business entity.

1 Among the biggest changes in law affecting San Joaquin County attorneys is the adoption of new or revised Rules of Professional Conduct approved by the California Supreme Court and effective November 1, 2018. See this month’s ATB Feature Article, California Rules of Professional Conduct Overhauled, by Gregg Meath.

2 Information for this article was obtained from the source statutes or rules and from the Judicial Council of California’s Summary of Court-Related Litigation, issued Nov. 2018, available online at: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/2018_LegSummary.pdf.


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