Public Law

Public Law Journal: SUMMER 2020, VOL. 43, NO. 3

The California Government Claims Act: A Primer, Application to Real Property and Environmental Law Claims, and Recent California Supreme Court Decisions

John M. Fujii and Valerie D. Escalante Troesh

John M. Fujii is a Partner at Silver & Wright LLP and head of the firm’s civil litigation defense practice specializing in defending public entities and their employees from federal civil rights lawsuits and state tort actions.*

Valerie D. Escalante Troesh is a Partner at Silver & Wright LLP and one of the firm’s most experienced attorneys in public entity representation, including tort defense, nuisance abatement and receivership actions, and advisory work in code enforcement. Silver & Wright LLP is one of the state’s preeminent law firms specializing in code enforcement and public agency litigation.*

In 1963, the California Legislature enacted a comprehensive set of statutes governing public entity liability and immunity and providing a uniform procedure for asserting such claims—the Government Claims Act ("GCA"), sometimes referred to as the "Tort Claims Act," codified at Government Code sections 810 to 996.6. Previously, tort liability of public entities was based on common law, which provided a general rule of governmental immunity until the California Supreme Court abolished this rule in 1961 and prompted enactment of the GCA.1 With over 50 years of amendments and case law interpreting the GCA since its enactment, public law practitioners need an understanding of the contours of the GCA given its importance for litigation against public agencies.

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