• Government Claims Act Claim Must be Delivered to or Received by the Persons Named in the Act
  • January 2, 2013 | Authors: Michael M. Mullins; G. Ross Trindle
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • Overview: The California Supreme Court recently held that a claim against local public entities under the Government Claims Act must be presented to a statutorily specified local official. If the claim is presented to some other person, the claim is deemed presented in compliance with the Act where the claim is actually received by a specified local official within the statutorily prescribed time. But if the claim is presented to someone other than a specified local official and a specified local official has not timely received the misdirected claim, the claim is not valid and cannot be upheld under the theory of “substantial compliance” with the Act.

    Practical Points: If any official or employee of a local public entity, other than its clerk, secretary, auditor or governing body, receives a claim under the Government Claims Act, the claim should be immediately forwarded only to the local public entity’s attorneys so that the attorneys can determine the proper course of action that the local public entity should take. The claim should not be forwarded to the local public entity’s clerk, secretary, auditor or governing body in order to preserve the local public entity’s ability to assert that the claim is not valid because it was not presented to a statutorily specified official.

    Summary Analysis: In DiCampli-Mintz v. County of Santa Clara, plaintiff alleged she was injured in a hospital owned and operated by the county. Her attorney delivered a claim to the hospital’s risk management department. It was forwarded to the county’s risk management department. The Government Claims Act provides that a claim must be delivered to a local public entity’s clerk, secretary or auditor, or mailed to any of those officers or to the local public entity’s governing body at its principal office (Government Code § 915). Section 915 also provides that, if the claim is not delivered or mailed to a specified official, it is deemed to have been presented in compliance with the statute if the claim is actually received by a specified official within the prescribed time. A “local public entity” is essentially any public entity in the state except for state agencies (Government Code § 900.4). Plaintiff’s claim was not delivered to any of the statutorily specified officials or actually received by them. The trial court granted summary judgment to the county because plaintiff failed to comply with the statutory claims requirements. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that plaintiff had “substantially complied” with the claims requirements. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal, unanimously holding that delivering or mailing the claim to a statutorily named official was mandatory. Presenting the claim to a person other than the statutorily specified officials was not valid and could not be upheld under the theory that the claimant had “substantially complied” with the Government Claims Act.