Equitable Delayed Discovery In a Child Molestation Case

In Curtis T. v. County of Los Angeles (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 1405, a guardian ad litem filed a government claim for damages against Los Angeles County on behalf of a 12-year-old child, based on molestations that occurred in a foster home when he was between five and eight years old. (Id. at pp. 1411-1413.) The Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, Division One, applying principles of equitable delayed discovery, held that the claim was timely as long as the guardian could establish that she could not, with reasonable diligence, have discovered the molestations earlier. (Id. at pp. 1422-1423.) Unlike actions against private parties, the statute of limitations to file a minor's claim against a public entity is not automatically tolled until the minor reaches the age of majority. (See 352, subd. (b).) The Curtis T. court emphasized that its decision was limited to the filing of government claims against public entities on behalf of minors who, because of their tender age, may not appreciate the wrongfulness of what was done to them. (Curtis T., at pp. 1409, 1422.) It also acknowledged that the limitations period for adult plaintiffs to file civil actions based on childhood sexual abuse was governed by section 340.1, a statute which it had no occasion to interpret. (Curtis T., at pp. 1419-1420.)