from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV2014-051213
The Honorable Aimee L. Anderson, Judge
Office of James R. Vaughan PC, Scottsdale By Brian K.
Partridge, Melissa R. Greaves, Eric W. Logvin, James R.
Vaughan Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant
Retter Attorney at Law, Scottsdale By Carl R. Retter Counsel
Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Judge Margaret H. Downie and Judge James P.
We hold in this case that, absent agreement to the contrary,
a cardholder's failure to make a minimum monthly
credit-card payment does not trigger the statute of
limitations on a claim for the entire unpaid balance on the
account. Absent contrary terms in the account agreement, the
lender's claim for the balance does not accrue, and
limitations does not begin to run, until the lender
accelerates the debt or otherwise demands payment in full.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Alberto and Arlene Santos accepted a credit card from
Washington Mutual Bank. By the time they first missed a
minimum monthly payment, in August 2007, the outstanding
balance on the account was $14, 642.07. Thereafter, the
Santoses paid only intermittently; they made a payment of $50
in August 2008, but nothing after that. When the bank finally
charged off the account later in 2008, the unpaid balance was
The bank eventually assigned the debt to Mertola, LLC, which
sued the Santoses in July 2014, alleging breach of contract.
Mertola's complaint sought damages in the amount of the
charge-off, costs and fees. The superior court granted the
Santoses' motion for summary judgment, reasoning the
claim was barred by the applicable six-year statute of
limitations because it accrued when the Santoses first
breached by failing to make a minimum monthly payment, more
than six years before Mertola sued.
Mertola timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to
Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section
Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Ariz. R.
Civ. P. 56(a). On review from a grant of summary judgment
based on limitations, we "view the facts and all
legitimate inferences in the light most favorable to [the
party] against whom summary judgment was granted."
Walk v. Ring, 202 Ariz. 310, 312, ¶ 3 (2002).
We "independently review any questions of law relating
to the statute of limitations defense." Logerquist
v. Danforth, 188 Ariz. 16, 18 (App. 1996).
An action for breach of a credit-card agreement must be
brought within six years after it accrues. A.R.S. §
12-548(A)(2) (2017). The Santoses argue, and the superior
court ruled, that the lender's claim on their unpaid
balance accrued when they first failed to make a minimum
monthly payment and thereby defaulted under the terms of the
credit-card agreement. Mertola contends, however, that
because the lender did not exercise its option to accelerate
the debt, the Santoses' repeated failures to pay as
agreed only gave rise to a series of claims for the unpaid
minimum monthly payments. Mertola argues that the limitations
period does not begin to run on a claim for the outstanding
balance owed on a credit card unless and until the lender
exercises its power to accelerate the debt. We consider
de novo "the determination ...