When Can You Sue the State Without Naming the State?

by Nossaman LLP
Contact

I'll give you a hint, this is a bit of a trick question.  Give up?  Okay.  Whenever you name a State agency, of course. 

In Lavine v. State of California (pdf), a property owner filed a lawsuit after the Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted, and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved, a ban on on-site septic systems in Malibu.  (Case No. B238030, Aug. 20, 2013, Unpublished.)  The plaintiff owned a single-family residence in Malibu that utilized an on-site septic system; no public sewer system was available to residences in the area.  Although the plaintiff initially named only the State Water Resources Control Board, she amended the complaint to also name the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the State of California, and the California Environmental Protection Agency ("Cal EPA").  The Cal EPA is the umbrella agency for the State Water Resources Control Board.  The only claims alleged against the State of California and Cal EPA were for inverse condemnation and declaratory relief.  

The inverse claim alleged that because a public sewer system was not available, the ban on on-site septic systems deprived plaintiff of substantially all of the beneficial, viable economic and practical use of her residentially zoned property.  The declaratory relief claim sought a declaration of plaintiff's rights vis-a-vis the State of California and Cal EPA.     

The State of California and Cal EPA demurred to the complaint, arguing that the actions of the State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Board could not be imputed to them.  The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. 

The Court of Appeal first explained that in order to maintain a claim against the State of California or Cal EPA, plaintiff must allege that they engaged in wrongful conduct.  The Court of Appeal stated that liability cannot be imposed simply because "they are hierarchically related within state government" to the State Water Resources Control Board.  The Court of Appeal then explained that an action against a subsidiary agency of the State is an action against the State. 

Because the inverse and declaratory relief causes of action were based solely on the alleged actions of subsidiary agencies, the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of the State of California, holding that the inclusion of the State as an additional party was duplicative.  The Court of Appeal also affirmed the dismissal of Cal EPA, holding that the fact that the State Water Resources Control Board "operated under the auspices" of Cal EPA was not a sufficient factual basis on which to state a claim against Cal EPA.  Furthermore, the Court of Appeal held that it was not an abuse of discretion to deny leave to amend, since the plaintiff never claimed she could allege specific wrongdoing by the State of California or Cal EPA.

Thus, although the State of California effectively remained a party, since an action against a subsidiary agency of the State is an action against the State, the State of California was held to be an improperly named party.  The Court of Appeal did note, however, that the plaintiff could have substituted the State of California for the State Water Resources Control Board.  And if the plaintiff had proceeded in this manner, the demurrer would have been overruled with respect to the State.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Nossaman LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Nossaman LLP
Contact
more
less

Nossaman LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.