Time Limits for Pursuing Claims Against the Government
Many individuals and businesses believe it is impossible to
fight City Hall or other governmental agencies who engage in wrongdoing, whether
intentional or inadvertent. Fortunately, that is not the case. I often encounter
situations where governmental entities, such as cities, counties or the state,
impose improper charges for utilities or services, development fees, cause
damage to a person’s property or property rights, commit torts, or engage in
other improper conduct for which the landlord should be properly compensated.
Fortunately, in most cases, the law expressly recognizes your right to take
action against the government.
Generally, in Arizona, there is a one-year statute of
limitations, or claim period, in which you can take legal action against state
or local governments. The one year period typically begins to accrue from the
date the damaged party realizes that he has been damaged, and knows or
reasonably should know the cause, source, event or condition which caused or
contributed to the damage. Making this determination can sometimes be tricky.
Thus, there is a possibility that you may still bring a claim for a wrongful act
that may have occurred more than a year in the past if you did not know about
the wrongful act or have reason to know about it until recently.
As a prerequisite to taking legal action against a
governmental entity in the State of Arizona, it is mandatory that you first
formally serve a Notice of Claim on the government within 180 days of learning
of the wrongdoing. Failure to timely serve the Notice of Claim will typically
preclude you from subsequently taking action against the government. Once a
Notice of Claim is served, the government is allowed 60 days to respond to the
claim. If the government does not timely respond to the claim, you may then
pursue legal action against the government. All of this must occur within the
statutory claim period noted above. Keep in mind that the government is
typically not afforded any special rights or privileges and is treated the same
as any other participant in the legal process. Accordingly, the old adage that
"you can’t fight city hall" is not necessarily an accurate statement.
Victims need to be vigilant when dealing with the
government. It is not uncommon for the government to make mistakes when they
impose charges or when they conduct business. The overcharges or damages can
sometime be significant, sometimes adding up to tens of thousands of dollars or
more, particularly if the charges are of the type that will continue to apply in
the future. Accordingly, it pays to be vigilant and to stand up for your legal
This article is general in nature and does not address some
of the claims against the federal government and certain governmental agencies
that have unique policies. An attorney should be consulted on these types of
matters to ensure that the claims are timely and properly pursued.
This article was originally published in 2008.