Waiting for a County, City, or Other Local Public Agency to Reject A Claim

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Once a claimant has filed a claim pursuant to the Government Claims Act (formerly the Tort Claims Act), what happens next?  The California Government Code gives the entity options.

(1) If the board finds the claim is not a proper charge against the public entity, it shall reject the claim.

(2) If the board finds the claim is a proper charge against the public entity and is for an amount justly due, it shall allow the claim.

(3) If the board finds the claim is a proper charge against the public entity but is for an amount greater than is justly due, it shall either reject the claim or allow it in the amount justly due and reject it as to the balance.
(4) If legal liability of the public entity or the amount justly due is disputed, the board may reject the claim or may compromise the claim. Government Code section 912.6(a).

If the entity is taking action, it is to be done within 45 days.  Government Code section 912.4.  If no action is taken within 45 days, the claim is deemed rejected by operation of law. Government Code section 912.4.  The time period can be extended by stipulation.  Government Code section 912.4(b).   However, the City may reject it after the 45 days (changing the time in which to file suit to six months from the date of actual rejection), if no suit has been filed.   See Kateleris v. Orange County (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 1211, 1216.

The entity can approve the claim, the entity can send a notice showing the claim’s defects (Government Code section 910.8), or the entity can reject the claim.  After rejection, the entity has the ability to reexamine claim at its discretion.  Government Code section 913.2.

Notice must be given in writing.  Government Code section 913.  Typically, the notice will be along the lines of:

“Notice is hereby given that the claim that you presented to the (insert title of board or officer) on (indicate date) was (indicate whether rejected, allowed, allowed in the amount of $___ and rejected as to the balance, rejected by operation of law, or other appropriate language, whichever is applicable) on (indicate date of action or rejection by operation of law).”
. . .
“WARNING
“Subject to certain exceptions, you have only six (6) months from the date this notice was personally delivered or deposited in the mail to file a court action on this claim. See Government Code section 945.6.
“You may seek the advice of an attorney of your choice in connection with this matter. If you desire to consult an attorney, you should do so immediately.”
Failure to receive a notice or receiving inadequate notice triggers a two-year period to file suit.  Government Code section 945.6(a)(2).    The correct practice is to file within six months of rejection, and to calendar six months from the date the claim was filed and file from that date instead of relying on the two-year period.  Agencies will trot out a proof of service saying that they rejected the claim, and then the claimant is in a battle of clerks.  While waiting for a trial date early in my career with the City of San Bernardino as a Deputy City Attorney, I watched a large, investor-owned public utility get into such a fight with the County of San Bernardino.
This is a general overview, there is a lot more to this process.  I will continue to write about the claims process here.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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