California Code of Civil Procedure section 337 pertains to a statute of limitations on written contracts – which is four years. California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5 provides a statute of limitations (three years) for actions brought for injuries or death of a patient against a health care provider with exceptions for tolling under certain instances.
Although neither of these statutes offer guidance with respect to the keeping of patient records, it is commonly taught in law and ethics seminars throughout California that 7 years is the cut-off point. In truth, no specific California code sections prescribe this number. However, it is considered a best practice to maintain the records for this period, as the BBS has 7 years to act against a therapist for most violations (and 10 years for sexual misconduct).
With regard to minors, statutes of limitations do not begin or run until the time of their 18th birthday. (California Business Code and Professions Code sections 4982.05 and 4990.32.) This means that records of minors should not be destroyed until, at least, 7 years past the date of their 18th birthday. (Although some therapists choose to retain minors’ records until 10 years following their 18th birthday.)