Monday, March 5, 2012
C.A. Slams Undated Notice Rejecting Leave to File Late Claim
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A public entity that rejects an application for leave to file a late claim for damages, but fails to specify the date of the rejection, may be estopped from asserting the statute of limitations, the Fifth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
The justices Thursday reversed a Stanislaus Superior Court judge’s order denying a minor’s claim against the Oakdale Joint Unified School District. The case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.
The case involved a 6-year-old student, identified only as D.C., whose behavioral problems were allegedly mishandled by the district.
The minor’s attorney, at the end of April 2010, presented the district with an application for leave to file a late claim. The government tort claims statutes provide that where a claim for personal injury or property damage is not presented within six months of accrual, an application for leave to present a late claim must be brought within a reasonable time, but in no event more than a year after the claim accrues.
On June 9, 2010, 43 days after the application was presented, the district notified the minor’s counsel that the application “was denied by the Board of Trustees.” On Dec. 3 of that year, less than six months after receiving that notice, counsel petitioned the Superior Court for leave to sue under Government Code Sec. 946.6.
The statute allows the court, for good cause, to relieve the plaintiff of the consequences of failing to file a timely claim. But a petition under that section is subject to a limitations period of six months “from the date [the] application for leave to present a late claim was denied,” under Sec 911.8.
Superior Court Judge Judge William Mayhew ruled that the petition for leave to sue was untimely, based on evidence that the application for leave to file a late claim had been denied at a meeting held May 10, more than six months before the petition was filed.
But Justice Donald R. Franson Jr., writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed that the petitioner was entitled to argue that the district misled him as to the date of the denial and should thus be estopped from asserting the limitations defense.
“In this case we hold that in order to constitute ‘[w]ritten notice of the board’s action upon the application’ as described in section 911.8, subdivision (a) the document purporting to be ‘written notice of the board’s action’ must include the date on which the board’s action was taken,” the jurist wrote.
Franson went on to say that because there was “no actual evidence” as to whether the plaintiff’s counsel was misled, nor any indication the plaintiff expected the district to assert a limitations defense, the appropriate disposition is to remand so that the plaintiff may amend his petition to assert estoppel.
The case is D.C. v. Oakdale Joint Unified School District, 12 S.O.S. 1103.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company