The COVID health crisis had a major effect on litigation and therefore on dog bite cases. Laws, regulations and practices intended to address health concerns had the collateral effect of preventing the normal handling of cases. Investigation, communication with parties and witnesses, processing of requests for governmental and medical records, filing of lawsuits, court hearings and jury trials were delayed or even prevented.
Some of the more foresighted planners correctly predicted that these disruptions would continue for some time after the emergency ended, because there would be a backlog of investigations, requests for evidence, court filings, court hearings and jury trials.
There were many different approaches to these problems. The statute of limitations related to any dog attack case may or may not have been effectively extended. Court hearings and jury trials for these cases may or may not have been handled differently or continue to a future date.
If you are the victim of a dog attack case before, during or after the COVID health crisis, it is essential that you consult with a knowledgeable trial lawyer as to the time for you to file your lawsuit, and what to expect by way of hearings and trial dates.
If you are an attorney or other legal professional, it is essential that you determine what changes (if any) applied or shall apply to cases in the jurisdictions where you practice. A great place to start your research is Ann O’Connell, What Happens to Court Deadlines and Statutes of Limitations During the Coronavirus Outbreak?, Internet, accessed July 2, 2021.
On March 27, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsome issued an order giving the Judicial Council of California authority to adopt emergency rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the order was to to protect parties who had causes of action that accrued before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. (See generally, https://jcc.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=790621&GUID=A0ED0998-D827-4792-9BD1-A3A4FCF939AA.)
On April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council of California adopted Emergency Rule No. 9, which “tolled” (i.e., suspended) the statute of limitations on all civil cases in California until 90 days after the Governor lifted the state of emergency.
On May 29, 2020, the Judicial Council ameded Emergency Rule No. 9. Under Rule 9(a), statutes of limitations that exceed 180 days were tolled from April 6, 2020, until October 1, 2020, a period of 178 days.
(https://casetext.com/rule/ca-rules-of-court/appendices/appendix-i-emergency-rules-related-to-covid-19/rule-emergency-rule-9-tolling-statutes-of-limitations-for-civil-causes-of-action?sort=relevance; all California Emergency Rules are found in https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/appendix-i.pdf.)
As a result of Emergency Rule No. 9(a), all of the California causes of action stemming from dog attacks have been “tolled” meaning they have been extended. For example, the two-year statute of limitations for an action brought under Civil Code section 3342 was extended to two years plus 178 days.