Prior to suing the City of Marysville for wrongful termination, Marc Renner presented a tort claim to the ?City ?to ?exhaust ?the ?requirements ?of ?RCW 4.96.020.? ?The statute requires a claimant to identify his actual residence at the time of presenting the claim and during the prior six months, and state ?the amount of damages claimed.??? Renner listed a single address?his current one.?? He left blank the line asking for damages, stating ?undetermined pending further investigation and discovery? but added ?Wages and benefits as well known to the city since termination plus front pay, emotional damages, costs,? fees? and? such? other? damage? as determined.??? On summary judgment, the trial court dismissed Renner?s claim for failure to comply with RCW 4.96.020. ?The purpose of the statute is to allow government to investigate, evaluate, and settle claims before being sued. Noting that Renner lived at his current address for two months prior to presenting his tort claim and that by inference the City could, with reasonable diligence that it did not exercise, review its personnel file of Renner to discover his prior address, the Court reversed summary judgment.?? It further noted that the fact-finder could take into account that the City?s tort claim form did not specifically ask for a separate statement of his residence six months prior to presenting his claim.? ?As for the damages information, ?The point of requiring it is to facilitate ?efforts ?by ?the? government? entity? to settle ?the ?claim? before ?suit ?is ?filed.??? ?Since Renner provided data about his damages by claiming that he sought ?lost wages and benefits since the date of termination,? as his former employer, the City was familiar with these items and? ?could?? calculate? ??an? ?approximate? ?base amount of the claim to which it was exposed.? Accordingly, the Court held that genuine issues of material fact about the City?s affirmative defense under RCW 4.96.020(3) precluded summary judgment, and that ?a bona fide attempt to meet [the residence] requirement substantially complies with the statute so long as the information provided enables the government entity, by reasonable diligence, to determine where the claimant resided at the relevant times.? Renner v. City of Marysville, 145 Wn. App. 443, 187 ?P.3d ?283 ?(2008) ?(Becker, ?J., ?opinion ?for unanimous court).
Substantial Compliance with Contents of Tort Claim Was Sufficient to Satisfy RCW 4.96.020.
Sep 18, 2008