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A.M. v. Ventura Unified School District

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

October 12, 2016

A.M., a Minor, etc., Plaintiff and Appellant,
VENTURA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants and Respondents.

         [As modified Oct. 19, 2016.]

         Superior Court County of Ventura Super. Ct. No. 56-2013- 00445601-CU-PO-VTA Henry J. Walsh, Judge

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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         Law Offices of Robert S. Gerstein, Robert S. Gerstein; Law Offices of Robert H. Tourtelot and Robert H. Tourtelot for Plaintiff and Appellant.

         Woo Houska, Carol A. Woo and Maureen M. Houska for Defendants and Respondents.


         PERREN, J.

         D.G., as guardian ad litem for her minor daughter, A.M. (appellant), sued the Ventura Unified School District (District), Michael Tapia, and Gwen Fields (collectively respondents) for negligence. Appellant alleged, among other things, that respondents negligently allowed male students to sexually abuse her while at school. The trial court granted summary judgment for respondents, concluding that appellant failed to file the required government tort claim with the District.

         Appellant concedes she did not file a tort claim, but asserts she was excused from doing so pursuant to Government Code section 905, subdivision (m), which exempts “[c]laims made pursuant to Section 340.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure for the recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood

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sexual abuse.”[1] Section 340.1, subdivisions (a)(2) and (b)(1) set forth the limitations period for bringing actions “for liability against any person or entity who owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, where a wrongful or negligent act by that person or entity was a legal cause of the childhood sexual abuse which resulted in the injury to the plaintiff." (§340.1, subd. (a)(2).) Such actions must be commenced before the victim's 26th birthday. (§ 340.1, subd. (b)(1).) Appellant's is such an action.

         Because section 340.1 provides the limitations period for appellant's claims of childhood sexual abuse, appellant was exempt from filing a tort claim under Government Code section 905, subdivision (m). As we shall explain, the trial court erred by concluding the exemption applies only if the alleged childhood sexual abuse was committed by an employee, volunteer, representative or agent of the public entity. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.


         Appellant was a second grade student at an elementary school in Ventura. Between September 2012 and April 2013, appellant allegedly was bullied, battered and sexually abused by some of her fellow students. A.R., a male student, hit and kicked her, touched her private parts, pinched her buttocks, hugged her and pressed himself against her. Another student exposed himself to appellant and rubbed his private parts on her. On one occasion, appellant was knocked unconscious.

         D.G. reported the abuse to various District employees, including appellant's teacher (Fields) and the school's principal (Tapia). When D.G. attempted to see the superintendant, she was referred to another District employee, who referred her back to Tapia. According to D.G., the District did nothing to stop the attacks on appellant. Fields told D.G. that “[she needs] to fix things on [her] own, ” and Tapia suggested that she move appellant to another school.

         As a result of the bullying and attacks, appellant was afraid to go to school or to play outside with her friends. In April 2013, D.G. began homeschooling appellant.

         In June 2013, appellant presented a tort claim to the County of Ventura, which is a separate entity from the District. The County of Ventura sent a notice of rejection. No claim was presented to the District.

         Appellant and D.G. filed a complaint for damages against respondents for (1) negligent supervision of students; (2) negligent supervision of school

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premises; (3) violation of article I, section 28, subdivision (c) of the California Constitution, Government Code section 44807,[2] Education Code section 8202 and California Code of Regulations, title 5, section 5552; (4) sexual harassment; (5) negligent infliction of emotional distress as to appellant; and (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress as to D.G. Only the sixth cause of action was brought by D.G. on her own behalf. After respondents demurred to most of the causes of action, appellant and D.G. voluntarily dismissed the common law claims, leaving only appellant's claims for negligent supervision of students, negligent supervision of school premises and violation of constitutional and statutory rights. The trial court overruled the demurrer as to those three claims.

         Respondents moved for summary judgment on the ground that the remaining three causes of action are barred due to appellant's failure to comply with the claims presentation requirement set forth in Government Code section 911.2. Appellant did not dispute the facts raised in respondents' motion. She argued that because her claim was made pursuant to section 340.1 for “childhood ...

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