Thursday, October 20, 2016

In Honor of Francis Walsh

Esparza v. Kaweah DeEsparza v. Kaweah Delta Dist. Hosp., No. F071761 (D5 Sept. 21, 2016)

When he wasn’t randomly digressing on the Warsaw Convention, my torts professor managed to say in pretty much every class—to the blank stares of 120 baffled 1Ls—“DON’T FORGET YOUR CODE CLAIM!”  He must have sued the government a lot or something.

Plaintiff here brought a med-mal case against a state-run hospital. She filed her complaint on a Judicial Council form, checking a box that denoted she was required to comply with the claims statute, and that she did so. She included an attached page denoting that she served the defendant with a code claim exactly six months after the incident. Her complaint did not allege, however, how the defendant responded to the claim. The trial court granted a demurrer, based on the fact that she didn’t allege the method of service or the defendant’s response, thus failing to perfect the statutory prerequisites under the Government Claims Act.

The Court of Appeal reverses, relying on Perez v. Golden Empire Transit Dist., 209 Cal. App. 4th 1228 (2012), which holds that plaintiff’s timely compliance with the claim requirement can be made by general allegation. A subsequent Supreme Court case—DiCampli-Mintz v. County of Santa Clara, 55 Cal. 4th 983 (2012)—held that a claim is validly made only if it is timely served on the appropriate person designated by the statute, which were details not alleged by Plaintiff. But DiCampli was a summary judgment case not addressed to the adequacy of the pleadings. It didn’t expressly disapprove Perez. And given the difference is standards, it didn’t implicitly do so either.

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