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Last Frontier Healthcare Dist. v. Superior Court (Harper) (March 26, 2019, No. C087953) __ Cal.App.5th __ [2019 WL 1349491]

MICRA notice of intent to sue does not toll Government Claims Act deadlines.

Plaintiff Jamie Harper was allegedly injured during a surgery at the Modoc Medical Center, a public entity. Almost a year later, her counsel sent Modoc notice of intent to sue, as required by MICRA. (See Code Civ. Proc., § 364.) Modoc treated the notice as a government claim, and rejected it as untimely. (See Gov. Code, § 911.2, subd. (a) [notice of claim must be submitted within 6 months after the cause of action accrues].) Harper submitted an application for leave to file a late claim, which expressly acknowledged that her claim had accrued nearly 14 months earlier but asserted that the tardiness was excused because her counsel did not know that Modoc was a public entity. Harper then sued Modoc for medical malpractice.

Modoc denied Harper’s late claim application on the ground it was untimely. (Gov. Code, § 911.4, subd. (b) [late claim applications must be filed within 1 year after accrual].) Harper petitioned the superior court for writ relief. (Gov. Code, § 946.6, subd. (c) [trial court may grant relief from denial of timely late government claim application].) The court granted Harper’s petition, ruling that her tardiness was due to excusable neglect and that her initial notice of intent to sue tolled the deadline for seeking leave to file a late claim under the rationale of Wood v. Young (1991) 53 Cal.3d 315 [medical malpractice statute of limitations tolled by service of notice of intent to sue]. Modoc sought writ review.

The Court of Appeal granted writ relief, holding that Harper’s notice of intent to sue did not toll the jurisdictional deadlines under the Government Claims Act. A notice of intent to sue tolls the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, which is distinct from the Government Claims Act requirements. Because Harper failed to present her written claim to Modoc within a year after its accrual, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to provide relief under Government Code section 946.6.

The Court of Appeal granted writ relief, holding that Harper’s notice of intent to sue did not toll the jurisdictional deadlines under the Government Claims Act. A notice of intent to sue tolls the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, which is distinct from the Government Claims Act requirements. Because Harper failed to present her written claim to Modoc within a year after its accrual, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to provide relief under Government Code section 946.6.

The bulletin describing the Court of Appeal’s decision was originally prepared for the California Society for Healthcare Attorneys (CSHA) by H. Thomas Watson and Peder K. Batalden, Horvitz & Levy LLP, and is republished with permission.

For more information regarding this bulletin, please contact H. Thomas Watson, Horvitz & Levy LLP, at 818-995-0800 or htwatson@horvitzlevy.com

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