Is the complaint timely?
Q. Client presented a claim for injury caused by the negligence of a public entity. The public entity mailed written notice of denial of the claim on January 31, which was received by Client on February 1. He consults Attorney on August 1 who files a complaint that day. Is the complaint timely?
A. It depends on whether it’s a leap year.
Mailing or receipt? Under GC 945.6(a)(1) the complaint must be filed “not later than six months” after the notice of rejection is “personally delivered or deposited in the mail.” This has been consistently held to mean what it says—the 6-month period starts when the notice is mailed, not when it’s received. So the 6 months is counted from January 31.
How long is “6 months”? In Gonzalez v. County of Los Angeles (1988) 199 CA3d 601, 604, the court construed the term “six months” as used in 945.6 to mean “six calendar months or 182 days, whichever is longer.” In a non-leap year, a complaint filed August 1 would be timely because it’s the 182nd day after January 31. In a leap year, August 1 would be the 183rd day and the SOL would have run July 31.
5 extra days for mailing? It has long been held that CCP 1013(a) does not apply to extend the limitations periods of 945.6(a)(1). (E.g., Edgington v. County of San Diego (1981) 118 CA3d 39, 45.)
GC 915.2 governs mailing of pleadings under the Government Claims Act. In 2002 it was amended to provide (à la CCP 1013(a)) for the extension of deadlines when “notices” and other specified pleadings were served by mail. Unfortunately, it was never clear from the language of the amendment whether it operated to extend the SOL period of 945.6(a)(1). However, the issue is now moot because 915.2 was amended effective 1/1/2012 to explicitly state that it does not extend the SOL deadlines under 945.6.
The Takeaway: “Deposited in the mail” means “deposited in the mail,” but “six months” does not always mean “six months.”