The California Supreme Court took steps to clarify the process of suing a governmental entity that Courts of Appeal have disagreed on for years. The Supreme Court has clarified the requirement of the “Tort Claims Act,” requiring the filing of a demand prior to the institution of tort and contract litigation against a governmental entity.
Prior to this ruling, Courts of Appeal in California presented contradictory rulings on the issue. Some ruled that the “Tort Claims Act” excluded contract disputes and others ruled that it included contract disputes with governmental entities.
To further clarify, the Supreme Court went as far as changing the name of the act. The new name is the “Government Claims Act”.
In a unanimous opinion, Justice Carol Corrigan wrote “Government Code section 905 requires that ‘all claims for money or damages against local public entities’ be presented to the responsible public entity before a lawsuit is filed. Failure to present a timely claim bars suit against the entity. (§ 945.4.) Here we hold that these requirements apply to breach of contract claims.”
The decision is available for review here on the California Supreme Court website.
To sum up, if you have a dispute with any public entity within the State of California, you are required to file a claim with that entity before filing a lawsuit. With this decision in place, failure to file a claim will provide the public entity the legal clout to have your lawsuit dismissed.
Lastly, the actual claim you file could limit your recovery in a lawsuit. If you are unsure how to proceed with a claim which might lead to a lawsuit, contact Richard Oppenheim today. He may be reached at 818-461-8500 or by email.