Claim Mailed to Public Entity's Risk Management Department Substantially Complies with Claims Requirement

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In an opinion published May 26, 2011 the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, held that a tort claim mailed to a public entity's risk management department satisfies the claims presentation requirement under Government Code Section 915. The plaintiff in the case, DiCampli-Mintz v. County of Santa Clara, H034160, underwent surgery at a County hospital, suffered complications, and claimed that the County and two of its physician employees were at fault. Her attorney mailed a claim to the two County physicians, and the County's Risk Management Department. The Risk Management Department received the claim shortly thereafter, and forwarded it to the County's attorneys. 

Under Section 915, a claim against a local public entity must be presented by (1) delivering it to the entity's clerk, secretary or auditor; (2) mailing it to the entity's clerk, secretary or auditor; or (3) actual receipt by the entity's clerk, secretary or auditor. Although there was no evidence that the plaintiff complied with this requirement, the Court of Appeal noted that a claimant will substantially comply with the claims presentation requirement where the claim is given to a person or department whose functions include the management or defense of the claims against the public entity, in this case, the County's Risk Management Department. 

Although this case does not present a significant change in the law, it is an important reminder that claimants probably comply with the claims presentation requirement when they present their claims to local public entities' risk management and/or legal departments.

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