Key Decisions

November 2012- An Allegation Of Compliance

(filed under: Key Decisions Archive | November 20, 2012)

An Allegation Of Compliance With A Statutory Requirement May Suffice To Keep A Case In Court

Perez v. Golden Empire Transit District
(Cal. Ct. of App., 5th Dist.), filed October 5, 2012

KEY FACTS

Maria Perez was a passenger on a bus operated by Golden Empire Transit District.  She was injured while exiting the bus due to the carelessness of the bus driver.

Perez made a claim as required by the Government Claims Act, embodied in Government Code section 810, et seq.  After the Transit District rejected her claim, Perez filed a lawsuit.

The Transit District challenged the lawsuit with a demurrer.  It asserted that Perez’s claim was defective because (1) it failed to include the date of the occurrence, which is required by the Government Claims Act; (2) Perez was notified of the omission; and (3) Perez failed to file an amended claim to cure the omission.

Perez amended her complaint to allege that a representative of Transit District called her representative, stated no date was included in the claim, and requested the date of the incident be provided.  She also alleged she “subsequently provided the date of the incident to said representative, thus complying with the requirements of the government tort claim statute.”

The trial court sustained the demurrer and dismissed Perez’s lawsuit.

HOLDING & REASONING

The Court of Appeals reversed.  It ruled that Perez’s allegations were legally sufficient to state a claim and if proved would support a verdict in her favor.

The court noted that Perez’s allegation did not identify how the date of incident was provided to Transit District’s representative.  For instance, it did not state whether the date was provided by oral or written means, much less whether an amended claim form, a letter or some other document was used.  Nonetheless, the court reasoned that under the rules governing appellate review of a demurrer, it had to interpret Perez’s allegations that she subsequently provided the date to the Transit District, when combined with her allegations regarding compliance with the claim requirement, as being sufficient to mean that she amended her claim.

ANALYSIS

Winning a battle does not ensure one will win the war.  Perez may have alleged enough to keep her suit alive, but that does not mean she can prove she actually amended her claim.  The court’s opinion suggests that the case could easily be lost, depending on the evidence surrounding the purported amendment.