Roshea Maderer worked as a typist for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. She alleges that, on December 24, 2012, an incident took place in which fellow employees threatened and verbally abused her in front of approximately 75 fellow employees at an office holiday party. Maderer claims that employees threatened to kick her in the face, falsely accused her of engaging in sexual encounters, and accused her of being a racist, a child molester, a liar, a thief, and a rat.
Maderer filed a complaint with LADWP managers shortly after the incident occurred. Managers interviewed Maderer and her alleged attackers, and the City’s Equal Employment Opportunity Section (EEOS) initiated a formal complaint. In the absence of a response from the EEOS, Maderer filed a civil complaint alleging that LADWP had denied her right to due process under the United States Constitution by failing to investigate the incident, and she also alleged violations of state law.
The City removed the case to federal court where after a series of motions the federal law related claims were dismissed after which the federal court remanded the case to the trial court with respect to the state claims. At that point the trial court sustained without leave to amend the City’s demurrer. The court found (1) that Maderer had not identified any statutory basis for liability, as required by Government Code section 815; (2) that she had not alleged that she had presented the claim to the City prior to filing the suit, pursuant to Government Code sections 911.2 and 945.4; and (3) that the only recovery available for injuries of the type Maderer alleged she had suffered was through the workers’ compensation system.
The Court of Appeal sustained the dismissal in the unpublished case of Maderer v City of Los Angeles.
The trial court granted the City’s demurrer in part because it found that Maderer had not identified a statute allowing her to bring a suit against the City for the hazing injuries she alleges she suffered, as required by Government Code section 815 which provides that “[e]xcept as otherwise provided by statute: [¶] (a) A public entity is not liable for an injury, whether such injury arises out of an act or omission of the public entity or a public employee or any other person.” Maderer failed to identify a statute creating City liability for the hazing injuries she claims she suffered.
The trial court identified two other bases for granting the demurrer. First, the trial court found that the attacks Maderer described in her complaint were examples of “[f]lare-ups, frustrations, and disagreements among employees [that] are commonplace in the workplace and may lead to ‘physical act[s] of aggression.’ ” (Torres v. Parkhouse Tire Service, Inc. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 995, 1009.) Because actions like these are expressions of human nature which are inseparable from working together and are inherent in the working environment, the court found that Maderer could not seek recovery for her injuries outside the workers’ compensation system.
Finally, the trial court found that Maderer had failed to satisfy the claim presentation requirements expressed in Government Code sections 911.2 and 945.4, under which a plaintiff must present a personal injury claim to the public entity defendant within six months of the accrual of the cause of action.
With regard to these issues the Court of Appeal noted “We need not address these issues because Maderer’s failure to identify a basis for city liability pursuant to Government Code section 815 was sufficient to justify the trial court’s decision to sustain the City’s demurrer. Even if Maderer were correct with respect to the workers’ compensation and claim presentation arguments, the court’s decision to dismiss her case would still have been proper.”