California Court Holds Government Entity May Be Precluded from Asserting Plaintiff’s Non-Compliance with Government Claims Act, Based on Misleading Statements

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a California car accident case involving the alleged negligence of a police officer. The case required the court to discuss the Government Claims Act and whether the plaintiffs’ non-compliance with the Act should prevent the plaintiffs from proceeding with their case against the government defendants. Ultimately, since the court determined that the government officials involved in the case may have made misleading statements to the plaintiffs and their attorney, the court permitted the plaintiffs’ case to proceed in order for a jury to determine whether the plaintiffs should be excused from compliance with the Act.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were seriously injured when a car driven by a police officer with the L.A. School Police Department (LASPD) ran a red light and crashed into their vehicle. After the accident, but before the plaintiffs were taken to the hospital in an ambulance, the plaintiffs were provided a business card indicating that the responsible party was LASPD. The card listed the LASPD address and website.

Four days after the accident, the plaintiffs’ attorney filed a claim for damages against LASPD. The attorney obtained the complaint form from the LASPD website. The plaintiffs later filed a personal injury case against LASPD. Once the case was filed, certain information was passed, including the name of the officer responsible for the accident as well as the name of the government organization that owned the vehicle, the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD). The plaintiffs then amended their complaint to add LAUSD.

In response to the plaintiffs’ claims, LAUSD argued that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to follow the requirements of the Government Claims Act, which requires an injured party to provide notice to the government entity they are suing. Specifically, LAUSD claimed that LASPD was an entity within LAUSD, and for notice to be proper, it should have been to LAUSD.

The plaintiffs argued that they were never made aware that LASPD was a separate entity and that despite all of the conversations the plaintiffs’ attorney had with LASPD agents, it was never mentioned that a claim would need to be filed with LAUSD. The plaintiffs claimed that LAUSD should be equitably estopped from making the non-compliance argument because misleading statements made by LAUSD agents led the plaintiffs to believe they had properly filed their complaint.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs and reversed the lower court’s granting of summary judgment to LAUSD. The court explained that the plaintiffs’ evidence raised a genuine issue of fact about whether they were misled, and it should be left up to a jury to decide whether the plaintiffs’’ reliance on conversations with LAUSD agents was reasonable, given the circumstances.

Have You Been Injured by a Negligent Government Employee?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a California auto accident with a government employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated California personal injury attorneys at Sharifi Firm have extensive experience handling all types of California car accident claims, including those naming government employees or entities as defendants. Call 866-422-7222 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Plaintiff’s Case Permitted to Proceed Against Private Company Responsible for Maintaining Traffic Lights, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, November 20, 2017

California Court Discusses the Scope of Church’s Duty to Parishioner in Recent Premises Liability Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, November 27, 2017

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