West et al v. All Aboard America Bus et al

Filing 35

ORDER by Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley denying 24 Motion to Dismiss. (ahm, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/1/2017)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 MICHAEL WEST, et al., Plaintiffs, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 13 ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS v. ALL ABOARD AMERICA! HOLDINGS, INC., 11 12 Case No.16-cv-04071-JSC Re: Dkt. No. 24 Defendant. ALL ABOARD AMERICA! HOLDINGS, INC., Cross-Complainant, 14 v. 15 16 17 CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO and ROES 1 TO 5 Cross- Defendants. 18 19 This action arises out of a vehicle accident between a bus and cable car. Plaintiffs, 20 passengers of the cable car, allege physical injury as a result of the accident. Now pending before 21 the Court is the motion of Third–Party Defendant City and County of San Francisco (“San 22 Francisco”) to dismiss the Cross-Complaint of All Aboard America! Holdings, Inc. (“All 23 Aboard”) for failure to comply with the California Tort Claims Act. (Dkt. No. 24.) The primary 24 issue is whether All Aboard timely filed its Cross-Complaint. After carefully considering the 25 parties’ submissions, and having had the benefit of oral argument on January 26, 2017, the Court 26 DENIES the motion to dismiss. San Francisco has not shown as a matter of law that All Aboard 27 failed to comply with the time requirements of the Act. 28 BACKGROUND 1 2 The accident which led to this lawsuit occurred on May 19, 2015. (Dkt. No. 1 at 11. 1) A 3 bus, operated by All Aboard, collided with a cable car, operated by San Francisco, injuring three 4 passengers: Michael West, Cherilyn Donato, and Elizabeth Ortiz. (Id.) All Aboard presented a 5 government claim to San Francisco on July 14, 2015. 2 (Dkt. No. 26-1 at 2.) San Francisco denied 6 the claim 13 days later, on July 27, 2015. (Dkt. No. 26-1 at 4.) Nearly a year later, on June 6, 2016, Plaintiffs Michael West, Cherilyn Donato, and 8 Elizabeth Ortiz filed suit against All Aboard in San Francisco County Superior Court. (Dkt. No. 1 9 at 7.) Plaintiffs allege All Aboard breached the duty of reasonable care in operating a motor 10 vehicle when its employee negligently struck a cable car, injuring Plaintiffs. All Aboard was 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 served on June 15, 2016. (Dkt. No. 30 at 4.) One month after the lawsuit was filed All Aboard presented another government claim to 12 13 San Francisco, which was denied on July 22. (Dkt. No. 26-1 at 7, 9.) Two days before San 14 Francisco denied this second government claim, All Aboard removed the case to federal court 15 based on diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(b). (Dkt. No. 1 at 1-2.) On November 11, 2016, All Aboard filed a Third-Party complaint against San Francisco, 16 17 seeking equitable indemnity in the event it is found liable in the underlying action. (Dkt. No. 22 at 18 2.) San Francisco thereafter filed the instant motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 24.) 19 DISCUSSION 20 San Francisco moves to dismiss All Aboard’s Third-Party Complaint for equitable 21 indemnity on the grounds that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 3 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 Record citations are to material in the Electronic Case File (“ECF”); pinpoint citations are to the ECF-generated page numbers at the top of the documents. 2 San Francisco requests that the Court take judicial notice of the dates of All Aboard’s two government claims. (Dkt. No. 26 at 2.) All Aboard has not objected to San Francisco’s request. The Court GRANTS the Request for Judicial Notice as to Exhibits A, B, C, and D which are part of the public record and easily verifiable. See Fed. R. Evid. 201. 3 The Court has diversity jurisdiction of Plaintiffs’ claims against All Aboard, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), and supplemental jurisdiction of All Aboard’s claim against San Francisco. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). 2 1 The California Tort Claims Act, see Cal. Gov’t. Code §§ 810, et seq.—commonly referred 2 to as the California Government Claims Act, see City of Stockton v. Sup. Ct., 42 Cal.4th 730, 741- 3 42 (2007)— provides an avenue for individuals to bring suits against public agencies. Under the 4 Act, all claims for money or damages against a local public entity must first be filed with the 5 entity as a “condition precedent to the maintenance of the action.” Cal. Gov’t Code § 945.4; City 6 of San Jose v. Sup. Ct., 12 Cal.3d 447, 454 (1974). The purpose of Section 945.4 is to provide the 7 public agency an opportunity to investigate the facts underlying the claim, as well as to settle the 8 claim and avoid litigation. City of San Jose, 12 Cal.3d at 447. Compliance with this “claim 9 presentation requirement” constitutes an element of a cause of action for damages against a public entity or official. Garedakis v. Brentwood Union School District, 183 F.Supp.3d 1032, 1040 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 (N.D.Cal. 2016) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “[F]ailure to allege facts 12 demonstrating or excusing compliance with the claim presentation requirement subjects a claim 13 against a public entity to [dismissal] for failure to state a cause of action.” D.V. v. City of 14 Sunnyvale, 65 F.Supp.3d 782, 786 (N.D.Cal. 2014) (internal citations and quotation marks 15 omitted). 16 Two claim presentation requirements are relevant here. First, All Aboard, as a party 17 making a claim for equitable indemnity, was required to present its claim to San Francisco within 18 six months of service on All Aboard of the complaint giving rise to All Aboard’s claim against the 19 City for equitable indemnity. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 901, 911.2; Centex Homes v. Superior Court, 20 214 Cal.App.4th 1090, 1104 (Cal. Ct. App. 2013). Second, All Aboard was required to file its 21 equitable indemnity claim against San Francisco within six months of San Francisco having given 22 notice to All Aboard of its denial of the claim. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 913, 945.6(a)(1). 23 On June 15, 2016 individuals injured in the bus accident served a complaint on All 24 Aboard, starting the six-month time limit for All Aboard to present an equitable indemnity claim 25 to San Francisco. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 901, 911.2 . All Aboard presented San Francisco with an 26 equitable indemnity claim on July 8, 2016, which San Francisco denied on July 22. Following 27 denial, All Aboard filed a cross-claim alleging equitable indemnity against San Francisco on 28 November 11, 2016. Thus, All Aboard met the six-month claim presentment requirement, as well 3 1 2 as the six month deadline to file suit against San Francisco. San Francisco nonetheless insists that the claim is time-barred because All Aboard did not 3 file its cross-complaint against San Francisco within six months of San Francisco’s rejection of 4 All Aboard’s earlier July 2015 claim. It argues, in effect, that once All Aboard made a claim and 5 the claim was rejected it had to file suit or lose the claim forever. In other words, even though the 6 second claim was timely under the Act, it is of no force or effect: a claimant gets to make one 7 claim and one claim only, even if subsequent claims are timely. The Court disagrees. 8 First, San Francisco cites no authority for the proposition that a claim that is timely 9 presented and timely filed is nonetheless barred merely because the claimant presented an earlier claim. This omission is unsurprising given that there is no policy reason to so hold. Plaintiff’s 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 July 2016 claim and subsequent lawsuit complied with the Act and thus San Francisco received all 12 the notice (indeed more notice) than the Act requires. That is the end of the Court’s inquiry. 13 Second, San Francisco’s argument is premised on the assumption that All Aboard’s first 14 and second government claims are identical, that is, both presented the same claim for equitable 15 indemnity. However, the Court cannot accept this assumption because on a motion to dismiss the 16 Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Manzarek v. St. Paul 17 Fire & marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). Although All Aboard’s first 18 government claim includes insurance information and identified the cable car passengers as the 19 injured, the claim does not expressly mention equitable indemnity. Further, San Francisco 20 indicated during oral argument that it automatically denies repeat claims, but All Aboard’s second 21 claim was not denied as a repeat. Finally, All Aboard’s equitable indemnity claim had not accrued 22 for purposes of presenting a claim. See Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 901, 911.2. While one could infer 23 that the first claim was for equitable indemnity, drawing all inferences on the current record in All 24 Aboard’s favor does not require the inference. 25 26 27 28 Thus, San Francisco has failed to prove as a matter of law that All Aboard failed to comply with presentment requirements of the California Tort Claims Act. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES the motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 24.) 4 1 2 3 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: February 1, 2017 4 5 JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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