September 1, 2014
Suing a Government Agency

It is possible to sue a local or state government agency in Small Claims Court. If you have a claim against a city or county, the State of California or any other California public body, such as a School District, SamTrans, etc., you must follow the requirements of the California Government Code.

Be prepared to show evidence to the court that you have met these requirements:

  • You must present a written claim to the public agency.
  • The claim must have been rejected. A copy of this rejection letter must be submitted with your claim, at the time of filing.
  • Your suit must be filed in court not later than six months after your claim was rejected or within two years of the incident if no rejection was received.

Presenting your claim to the government agency

To meet the requirements of the Government Code, you should get an official claim form from the responsible agency. For a claim arising from a dispute with a department of the San Mateo County government, a form can be provided by:

Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
400 County Center
Redwood City


You can get forms for claims against a city government from the City Clerk. For claims against the State of California, contact:

State Board of Control, Suite 300
926 "J" Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Other public agencies provide their forms for claims against them.
 

Time limits

Claims to the government agency for damage to you or your property must be made within six months of the incident. You have up to one year for claims related to contracts. (For information about the possibility of filing a late claim, consult your attorney). You will be notified by the agency, usually in one or two months, whether your claim is approved or denied.

Filing your suit in Small Claims Court

If your claim is denied, you have six months in which to file suit in Small Claims Court. If you do not receive any written notice of rejection, you must file within two years from the date of the incident. Once you file, the procedure is the same as against any other Defendant in a Small Claims suit. You name the public body as defendant c/o the Clerk of the City Council, County Board of Supervisors or other governing board.

More on Common Types of Cases »

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