Can a Complaint Naming a Public Entity Be Filed Before Compliance Is Either Achieved or Excused ?

In Bell v. Tri-City Hospital Dist. (1987) 196 Cal. App. 3d 438 241 Cal. Rptr. 796, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against only fictitiously named defendants. They subsequently petitioned a public entity, Tri-City, for leave to file a late claim. After this petition was denied, the plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint against several defendants. Although Tri-City was not listed in the caption of this complaint, or mentioned in its preliminary allegations, it was named as a defendant in one cause of action, which set forth the basis of its alleged liability. ( Id. at p. 441.) The plaintiffs successfully obtained relief from claim filing requirements under section 946.6 and, more than 30 days later, amended their complaint again to name Tri-City as a Doe defendant. ( Bell v. Tri-City Hospital Dist., supra, at p. 442.) The Court of Appeal concluded that even though Tri-City had not been properly included in the first amended complaint's caption, the complaint alleged a cause of action against Tri-City. ( Id. at pp. 445-446.) Although the complaint was premature because it did not allege compliance with claim filing procedures, this defect did not require dismissal. ( Id. at pp. 444-445.) On this point, the court observed: "We believe Wilson can no longer be relied on for the proposition that compliance with the tort claims procedures is an element of a cause of action against a public entity and, therefore, that a complaint naming a public entity cannot be filed before compliance is either achieved or excused." ( Id. at p. 444, 241 Cal. Rptr. 796.)