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Posts Tagged ‘suing a public entity in california’

postheadericon Suing a Public Entity

suing a public entityIf you are wronged or hurt by a public entity in California (city, county, state, or some branch of one of those entities like a police department, school district, water district, mosquito abatement district, etc.) then you are likely subject to the Tort Claims Act (found in California Government Code Sections 810 – 996.6) should you choose to take that public entity to court because the Tort Claims Act applies to all state tort claims against a public entity.

For the purposes of the Tort Claims Act, a tort is a non-contractual, non-employment, or non-federal law action seeking compensation for injuries caused by the public entity. So while being hit by a city bus is likely to be covered by the tort claims act (the state tort of negligence), being fired for being disabled (federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act) is not.


Following an injury to your person or your property you must file a claim (see California Government Code §§ 910 – 913.2) with the public entity responsible for the injury within six months of the date of  that injury before you are allowed to sue. Each entity has its own form for filing such a claim and these forms can be found either online or, more commonly, by contacting the public entity itself and asking for the form. Failure to file a timely claim with the entity will cause the court to dismiss your law suit.


Once you have filed your form with the public entity the entity has 45 days to accept or deny the claim (California Government Code § 912.4(a)). The public entity will deny the claim. If the public entity does not respond within the 45 days the failure to respond acts as a denial.


Make sure you have your ducks in a row, because you have six months from the date you serve the public entity with the complaint to file with the court. (California Government Code § 945.6(a)(1).) The regular statute of limitations does not apply. While most California  torts must be filed within two years, the tort claims act statute of limitations is never more  than one year and is usually less. If you file your claim immediately after your injury your total time to file with the court can be as little as six months. Although you need to wait for the public entity to deny you claim, you do not get an extra 45 days to file for doing so.


Talk to an attorney who understands public entity law. Many offices refuse to sue public entities because of the time restraints while other offices don’t know how to file a timely claim. An experienced and competent attorney will also be able to explain how an employment law or federal law action, which is otherwise not subject to the six month filing deadline, may have tort law claim elements requiring compliance with § 910.