Doe v. City of L.A.

42 Cal. 4th 531, 67 Cal. Rptr. 3d 330, 169 P.3d 559 (2007)

 

RULE:

Plaintiffs seeking the shelter of Code Civ. Proc., § 340.1, subd. (b)(2), are not required to plead evidentiary, as opposed to ultimate facts, and may include allegations based on information and belief. The subdivision is not a defense to a statute of limitations but an expansion of the limitations period, the purpose of which is to expand access to the courts by victims of childhood sexual abuse. It would be inconsistent with this purpose, or with the mandate to broadly construe these provisions, to apply more stringent rules of pleading than those that ordinarily apply. Code Civ. Proc., § 425.10, subd. (a), provides that a complaint is sufficient if it contains a statement of the facts constituting the cause of action, in ordinary and concise language. Thus, a complaint ordinarily is sufficient if it alleges ultimate rather than evidentiary facts. Moreover, a plaintiff may allege on information and belief any matters that are not within his personal knowledge, if he has information leading him to believe that the allegations are true. Furthermore, the doctrine of less particularity may be especially appropriate in this setting.

FACTS:

The city and the national youth organization maintained a program for children who were interested in learning about law enforcement. Two adults over the age of 26 filed lawsuits against the city and the national youth organization alleging failure to prevent sexual abuse by a police officer involved in the propram when they were children. The complaints alleged that the city and the organization knew of misconduct by the officer that created a risk of sexual exploitation, such as associating with a known pornographer and spending a large amount of time in the company of young boys. The trial court, however, sustained the demurrers of the city and orgaization, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

ISSUE:

Did the Court of Appeals rule properly?

ANSWER:

Yes

CONCLUSION:

The court held that an extension of the limitations period under Code Civ. Proc., § 340.1, subd. (b)(2), required a sexual abuse victim over age 26 to establish that a defendant who was not a perpetrator had actual knowledge, had constructive knowledge as measured by the reason to know standard, or was otherwise on notice that the perpetrator had engaged in past unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and failed to implement reasonable safeguards to avoid acts of future unlawful sexual conduct by the perpetrator. Although the doctrine of less particularity was appropriate to such pleadings, the court concluded that the complaints insufficiently alleged knowledge that the officer had engaged in past unlawful sexual conduct with minors. Pleading a known risk of sexual exploitation was not enough under § 340.1, subd. (b)(2).

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