The Statute of Limitations applies to the date when the lawsuit is filed, not the date when a judgment is entered. If the case was filed within the Statute of Limitations (this may be a factual issue), then your SOL defense will fail.
If you received a summons (SUM-100), it means you have been sued.
Once a lawsuit (complaint) has been filed, the statute of limitations is preserved as of the filing date.
If you are served with a Summons and Complaint, you should first record the date and manner in which you were served, and then retain a lawyer to file a timely response on your behalf. In most instances, for Superior Court lawsuits, you have 30 days from the date of personal service to respond to the Summons and Complaint.
In the event you absolutely cannot afford an attorney to defend you, you can represent yourself "in pro per". You would file either an Answer or a General Denial, and pay the first appearance filing fee.
The form for the Answer is (Judicial Council Form PLD-C-010):
The form for the General Denial is (Judicial Council Form PLD-050):
If you cannot afford the first appearance filing fee, you may apply for a fee waiver. See:
An Answer to Complaint typically includes a general denial plus a number of affirmative defenses. The various affirmative defenses must be separately stated and must refer to the causes of action to which they relate in a manner by which they may be intelligently distinguished.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 431.30(g).)
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.
If the creditor filed its lawsuit within the statute of limitations (4 years on credit card card debt, for example), you no longer have a statute of limitations defense.
Once the case is filed, the time limitations to resolve the case are for the most part set by the court, and to a lesser extent, the California code of civil procedure. What that means is, you'll have a set amount of time to conduct discovery, and then the case will be set for judicial arbitration or trial. You may be able to ask for more time to prepare for trial, if you need it, but you won't generally benefit from that time unless you know how to conduct discovery.
If you were sued by a debt buyer (not the original lender), you may have good defenses to the lawsuit. You should consult a debt collection defense attorney in your area.
This answer is for general information purposes only and is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is intended or formed by the posting of this answer.