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Oregon State University v. Superior Court (George R. Sutherland)

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

November 8, 2017

OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Respondent GEORGE R. SUTHERLAND, Real Party in Interest.

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS in mandate challenging an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County No. 37-2016-00014529-CU-PO-CTL overruling a demurrer. Eddie C. Sturgeon, Judge. Petition granted in part.

          Noonan Lance Boyer & Banach, Ethan T. Boyer; Higgs Fletcher & Mack and John Morris for Petitioner.

          Marc D. Adelman; Dentons U.S. and Charles A. Bird for Real Party in Interest.

          McCONNELL, P. J.

         I

         INTRODUCTION

         Oregon State University (Oregon State) petitions for a peremptory writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate an order overruling Oregon State's demurrer to George A. Sutherland's first amended complaint (complaint) and to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend. Oregon State contends the challenged order violates the federal Constitution's full faith and credit clause (Clause) (U.S. Const., art IV, § 1) because the complaint does not and cannot allege Sutherland's compliance with the Oregon Tort Claims Act's 180-day claims notice provision. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30.275, subds. (1), (2)(b).)[1] Sutherland counters the Clause does not require his compliance with the provision because requiring compliance would violate California's public policy by effectively depriving him of a remedy against Oregon State. Sutherland alternatively contends, if the Clause does require compliance with the provision, he can amend the complaint to plead facts showing compliance.[2]

         We agree the superior court should have sustained Oregon State's demurrer because the Oregon Tort Claims Act's claims notice provision is entitled to full faith and credit in California. The provision does not conflict with or violate California's public policy and declining to give the provision full faith and credit would evince an impermissible policy of discriminatory hostility to the provision. As Sutherland has belatedly demonstrated he can plead facts showing compliance with the provision, we grant the petition in part and direct the superior court to vacate its order overruling Oregon State's demurrer and enter a new order sustaining the demurrer with leave to amend.

         II

         BACKGROUND

         Sutherland's complaint asserts causes of action for negligence and negligent misrepresentation against Oregon State.[3] The complaint alleges Sutherland was severely injured when a crane he was operating tipped over. At the time, he was using the crane to load a stack container owned by Oregon State onto a vessel owned by his employer, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a department of the University of California, San Diego. The stack container's weight was not displayed on its exterior and was not accurately recorded on the bill of lading provided by Oregon State.

         Oregon State demurred to the complaint, asserting the complaint fails to state facts sufficient to constitute claims for negligence and negligent misrepresentation against Oregon State because the complaint does not and cannot allege compliance with the Oregon Tort Claims Act's claims notice provision. Oregon State argued the Clause requires such compliance.[4]

         Sutherland opposed the demurrer, arguing Oregon State lost the benefits and protections of the Oregon Tort Claims Act when Oregon State consciously decided to engage in activities in California causing injury to a California resident. Sutherland also argued applying the Oregon Tort Claims Act, particularly its claims notice provision, would violate California's public policy of protecting the legal rights of its citizens and ensuring they are fully compensated by injuries caused by others.

         Oregon State countered that applying the Oregon Tort Claims Act's claims notice provision would not undermine California's public policy because California's Government Claims Act (Gov. Code, § 810 et seq.) contains similar claims notice provisions (see Gov. Code, §§ 911.2, subd. (a), 945.4)[5] and both acts share similar governmental purposes. Conversely, not applying the Oregon Tort ...


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