Judge: Jill Feeney, Case: 22STCV20091, Date: 2022-08-12 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 22STCV20091    Hearing Date: August 12, 2022    Dept: 30

Department 30, Spring Street Courthouse
August 12, 2022 
22STCV20091
Plaintiff Zarik Evinyan’s Petition for Relief From Government Claim Filing Requirements

DECISION

The purpose of the Government Claims Act is to ensure that governmental entities have an opportunity to investigate and evaluate claims against them. The Act should not be permitted to become “a snare for the unwary litigant if the statutory purpose is satisfied.” (Karinock v. Sup. Ct. (1990) 216 CA3d 1473, 1477; Southern Calif Edison Co v. City of Victorville (2013) 217 CA4th 218, 238.)

Plaintiff fell on the sidewalk on June 24, 2021. Plaintiff timely submitted a claim on December 23, 2021. Defendant City denied that claim on January 12, 2022.

Realizing that a mistake was made as to the location of the accident (Plaintiff mistakenly listed her home address, not the address where the accident occurred which was two houses down), On June 24, 2022, Plaintiff sent the City updated claim information indicating that she had inadvertently initially provided the wrong address, provided the right address and explained that the mistake happened due to injuries to her head which she sustained as a result of the fall at issue here.

Plaintiff files a petition pursuant to Government Code Section 946.6 to allow Plaintiff to file a late claim, the claim submitted on June 24, 2022. There is no dispute that June 24, 2022 is within the one-year period of accrual and so with respect to timeliness it would be allowable as a late claim.

Defendant City contends that since Plaintiff timely submitted a claim which was denied, Plaintiff has lost the chance to amend her claim. Essentially, City contends that Plaintiff was permitted to file a request to submit a late claim on or before June 24, 2022, but since she timely submitted a claim within the original six-month time period and it was denied, Plaintiff is not afforded the opportunity to correct her mistake even though she did so within the one-year accrual period.

The Court here construes the amended claim as an application to present a late claim. A claimant has up to one year after accrual of a cause of action to apply in writing for permission to file a late claim. The application must state the reason for the delay and must be accompanied by a copy of the proposed claim. (Government Code Section 911.4.)  This is effectively what the amended claim did. It asked that the City consider the new information and explained the reason for the delay was inadvertence due to Plaintiff’s head injury. It referenced the original complaint, which the City had a copy of and noted that the only difference was the address of the location of the slip and fall which was provided to the City. 

A public entity must permit leave to file a late claim if the Claimant failed to present the claim as a result of “mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect” and the public entity was not prejudiced as a result of the failure to file the claim during the usual time frame. (Government Code Section 911.2.) 

The request for leave to file a late claim is deemed denied unless granted within 45 days. (Government Code Section 911.6(c).)

A claimant may then file a petition for court relief within six months after the application was denied. (Government Code Section 946.6(b).)

The grounds for relief are the same as the grounds to be considered by the agency, mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect and that the public entity will not not prejudiced in defense of the claim. (Government Code Section 946.6(c).)

Here, it seems that Plaintiff has met the standard of mistake/inadvertence and has provided a reason for that mistake/inadvertence. Defendant does not claim prejudice.

Courts are to exercise their authority to grant relief liberally and to preserve claims when possible. (Bettencourt v. Los Rios Comm. College Dist. (1986) 42 C3d 270, 276.)

Therefore, the petition is granted.

Moving party is ordered to provide notice.