Judge Erred in Axing Suit Based on Claim Against City Not Having Been Filed—C.A.
No Claim Is Required Where Declaratory Relief, Only, Is Sought—Opinion
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Sixth District Court of Appeal yesterday ordered reinstatement of an amended complaint against the City of Monterey for breach of contract, holding that the action for damages was not “doomed” based on a governmental claim not having been filed before suit was brought given that the initial complaint only sought declaratory relief and no claim was required to pursue that remedy.
Justice Adrienne Grover authored the opinion which reverses a summary judgment awarded to the city by Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Drew C. Takaichi.
Takaichi sustained a demurrer to the initial complaint, with leave to amend, based on a claim against the governmental entity not having been presented. That pleading sought declaratory relief, only.
Later, after three claims had been filed and, under amendments, damages were claimed, the judge granted summary judgment based on the lawsuit not having been preceded by the filing of a claim.
“Before filing a lawsuit asserting a claim for money or damages against a public entity, the Government Claims Act…requires that a claim be presented to the entity. That requirement does not apply to an action seeking purely declaratory relief. As applied here, a declaratory relief action seeking interpretation of a contract is not a claim for money or damages, even if the judicial interpretation sought may later be the basis for a separate claim for money or damages which would itself trigger the claim presentation requirement.”
She went on to say:
“Because the initial complaint’s declaratory relief cause of action was not a claim for money or damages subject to the Government Claims Act, the trial court was incorrect to sustain the demurrer on that basis, and the ensuing summary judgment must likewise be reversed.”
The case is Stronghold Engineering Incorporated v. City of Monterey, 2023 S.O.S. 4013.
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