In J.M. v. Huntington Beach Union High School District, published September 30, 2015, the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3 ruled that a minor who presents an untimely claim for damages, and who files a timely application for leave to present a late claim that is denied by the public entity, must timely petition the trial court for relief from the claim statutes. In doing so, the appellate court expressly disagreed with the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division 3, in E.M. v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 736.
The minor in J.M. failed to present a claim to the defendant school district within six months of the date of his injury, which was when his cause of action accrued. He presented an application for leave to present late claim to the district within a year of his injury. Government Code section 911.6, subdivision (b)(2), prescribes that the public entity "shall grant" an application for leave to present a late claim if it is presented within a year after accrual. The district did not act on the application. Under Government Code section 911.6(c), the application is denied by operation of law if the public entity does not act on it within 45 days. Almost a year after filing the application, the plaintiff filed a petition for relief with the trial court under Government Code section 946.6. The petition was denied as untimely.
The appellate court affirmed the denial. It ruled that if a timely late-claim application is denied by the entity, either by entity action or by operation of law, the plaintiff must petition the court for relief within six months of the date the application was denied or deemed denied, or else the plaintiff is barred from pursuing a lawsuit. Despite section 911.6(c)(2)'s language that the entity "shall" grant a timely minor's application, that does not change subdivision (b)'s rule that if the application is not acted on within the prescribed time it is deemed denied. Further, the entity has no obligation to send a notice of denial if it allows denial by operation of law.
The appellate court declined to follow E.M., which held that if a minor files a timely late-claim application that the entity denies, the minor need not petition the trial court for relief since the minor was entitled to late-claim relief anyway. The J.M. court ruled that E.M. did not interpret the statutes correctly.
In light of this conflicting authority, this case may end up before the California Supreme Court.