Equitable Tolling Where a Plaintiff Has More Than One Avenue of Legal Recourse

From the decision in Addison v. State of California (1978) 21 Cal.3d 313, a definitive three-pronged test has been created for invocation of the doctrine of equitable tolling in situations where a plaintiff has more than one avenue of legal recourse available, which consists of the following elements: "(1) timely notice to the defendant in filing the first claim; (2) lack of prejudice to defendant in gathering evidence to defend against the second claim; and, (3) good faith and reasonable conduct by the plaintiff in filing the second claim." (Collier v. City of Pasadena (1983) 142 Cal. App. 3d 917, 924, 191 Cal. Rptr. 681.) In Collier v. City of Pasadena (1983) 142 Cal. App. 3d 917, the Court defined those elements: "The timely notice requirement essentially means that the first claim must have been filed within the statutory period. Furthermore the filing of the first claim must alert the defendant in the second claim of the need to begin investigating the facts which form the basis for the second claim." (Ibid.) The second element requires "that the facts of the two claims be identical or at least so similar that the defendant's investigation of the first claim will put him in a position to fairly defend the second." (Id. at p. 925.) With respect to the third element, the Collier court found good faith and reasonable conduct "less clearly defined in the cases" but reasoned long delay "even after crediting the tolled period ... might be considered unreasonable" or intentionally lulling "the defendant into believing the second claim would not be filed ... might be deemed to constitute bad faith." (Id. at p. 926.)