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Plaintiff landlord brought an action against defendant tenant for unpaid rent of a dairy ranch for the alleged period of five years. The Superior Court of Stanislaus County (California) rendered judgment against the tenant for the sum of $ 1200 plus interest. The tenant challenged the judgment.

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Overview

The landlord sought to recover for the unpaid rent pursuant to the terms of an oral lease, covering a period of five years, which expired more than two years before the action was commenced. The tenant pleaded, by means of his demurrer, and in his answer, that the cause was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The trial court rendered judgment against the tenant on the theory that the action was founded on “an open book account.” On appeal, the issue was whether the statute of limitations could be extended from two to four years by the mere device of attempting to convert the action to recover unpaid installments of rent into an action based on an open book account. The court held that the two-year limitation of time within which the action could be commenced could not be extended by the mere fact that the landlord credited the tenant in his ledger with payments of certain installments of rent when they were made because the landlord’s ledger record did not constitute a book account within the contemplation of Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337.

Outcome

The court reversed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the landlord and directed the trial court to render judgment for the tenant.

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