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Sykora v. State Department of State Hospitals

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

May 6, 2014

ERIC DENNIS SYKORA, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
STATE DEPARTMENT OF STATE HOSPITALS, Defendant and Respondent.

Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County, No. CV120252A Martin J. Tangeman, Judge.

Page 1531

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1532

COUNSEL

Fisher Law Office and David L. Fisher for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Kristin G. Hogue, Assistant Attorney General, Richard Rojo and David Adida, Deputy Attorney General, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

GILBERT, P. J.

Failure to follow the requirements of the Government Tort Claims Act (Gov. Code, § 900 et seq.) often bars a plaintiff from filing an action against a state agency. But not always. The Act recognizes that in certain cases an inflexible application of its requirements produces an unjust result for which relief is available. The instant case is an example. We hold the timely filing and apparent acceptance of a government claim for which plaintiff inadvertently did not pay the $25 filing fee do not bar his claim.

Plaintiff Eric Dennis Sykora filed a government tort claim with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board ("the Board"). He did not include the required $25 filing fee. The Board affixed its stamp on the claim and assigned it a claim number.

Page 1533

Sykora later filed a negligence action against defendant State of California Department of Mental Health, now known as State Department of State Hospitals ("the Department"). More than one year after the claim was filed, the Department challenged the claim in a motion for judgment on the pleadings because Sykora did not pay the $25 filing fee.

The trial court agreed and granted the Department's motion and dismissed Sykora's action. We reverse.

FACTS

Sykora was a patient at Atascadero State Hospital from February 4 to May 4, 2011. He suffered from schizoaffective and poly substance dependence disorders, which were treated with therapy and medications. Upon his release, he claimed he had not been ...


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