What can be done when a document or instrument has been lost or destroyed? California Civil Code Section 3415 provides an answer:
"An action may be maintained by any person interested in any private document or instrument in writing, which has been lost or destroyed, to prove or establish the document or instrument or to compel the issuance, execution, and acknowledgment of a duplicate of the document or instrument."
The statute is not a liability statute. Rather, it recognizes the historical authority of courts in equity to provide a remedy for lost instruments. Despite being on the books, nearly unchanged, for more than a century, the statute is still used. For example, a bank recently invoked the statute in an attempt foreclose on a lost deed of trust. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Ward, 33 Cal. App. 5th 678 (2019).
Section 3415 is not the only California statute concerning the replacement of lost instruments. Corporations Code § 419 governs lost, stolen or destroyed share certificates and Commercial Code § 8405 lost, stolen or wrongfully taken certificated securities. See Which Code Applies When A Stock Certificate Has Been Lost, Destroyed Or Wrongfully Taken?