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District Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 1, California.


Civ. 10037.

Decided: February 06, 1936

Paul Blackwood and Bingham Gray, both of Los Angeles, for appellant. Shattuck, Davis & Story and George H. Moore, all of Los Angeles, for respondent.

Plaintiff sued the city of Santa Monica for damages for personal injuries sustained when he was struck by a motorbus owned and operated by the defendant city and driven by a city employee, one Earl H. Dawes.

As one of the defenses made by its answer, the city alleged that plaintiff did not file with the city or with the employee Dawes any claim or demand on account of his damages for more than 3 months after the date of the accident, October 5, 1933. The sufficiency of this defense was tested at the time of trial upon plaintiff's demurrer to the same, and, the demurrer having been overruled, the facts alleged in the special defense were admitted by plaintiff to be true, and judgment was entered in defendant's favor without further trial.

In support of this defense, the city relies upon chapter 1168, Statutes of 1931, page 2476, as amended by chapter 807, Statutes of 1933, page 2147. Section 1 of the act of 1931 reads in part as follows: “Whenever it is claimed that any person has been injured or any property damaged as a result of the dangerous or defective condition of any public street, highway, building, park, grounds, works or property, and/or the negligence or carelessness of any public officer, a verified claim for damages shall be presented in writing and filed with such officer and the clerk or secretary of the legislative body of the municipality, county, city and county, or school district, as the case may be, within ninety days after such accident has occurred.”

Section 4 of that act before its amendment read as follows: “Wherever the word ‘person’ or ‘public’ are used in this act, such words shall be deemed to include any pupil attending the public schools of any school or high school district.”

By the act of 1933, section 2 of the act of 1931 was amended in certain particulars not necessary to consider; section 4 of the act was repealed and a new section 4 added, reading as follows:

“The word ‘person’ includes any pupil attending the public schools of any school or high school district.

“The words ‘public property’ include any vehicle, implement or machinery owned by a municipality, county, city and county, school district, or the State of California, or operated by or under the direction or authority or at the request of any public officer.

“The words ‘public officer,’ ‘officer’ or ‘officers' include any deputy, assistant, agent or employee of a municipality, county, city and county, school district or the State of California, acting within the scope of his office, agency or employment.”

The amendatory act had the following title: “An act to amend sections 2 and 4 of an act entitled ‘An act relating to the liability and damages of officers of municipalities, counties, cities and counties, school districts, and the State of California, in the case of injuries to persons or property resulting from the defective or dangerous condition of public streets, highways, bridges, buildings, works or property, and alleged to be due to the negligence or carelessness of such officers; prescribing the duties of claimants in such cases, and authorizing the State and such public or quasi-public corporations to take out and pay for insurance to protect their officers against such liability,’ approved June 19, 1931, extending the provisions of the act to include suits against employees as well as officers of municipalities, counties, cities and counties, school districts, and the State and to suits against such officers and employees for alleged negligence or carelessness thereof while engaged in the public service, and defining terms used in the act.” St.1933, p. 2147.

The trial court held that plaintiff's claim did not constitute a legal demand against the city, for the reason that he had not complied with the provisions of the act of 1931, as thus amended, in that his claim for damages, sustained through the alleged negligence of an employee of the city, had not been presented to the city or to the employee Dawes within 90 days after the accident. Appellant contends that the 1933 amendment of the act was void and of no effect because of the alleged failure of the Legislature, in enacting the same, to comply with the provisions of article 4, section 24, of the Constitution, which provides that: “No law shall be revised or amended by reference to its title; but in such case the act revised or section amended shall be reenacted and published at length as * * * amended,” etc. Section 1, so far as here involved, originally related only to negligence or carelessness of a “public officer,” whereas section 4 of the 1933 act defines the word “officer” to include “deputies,” “assistants,” “agents,” and “employees” of a municipality, thus requiring the filing of a claim for damages sustained through the negligence of an employee as well as in a case of negligence of an officer.

Appellant's argument is that the definition of the word “officer” would result in a change in the meaning of section 1 of the 1931 act, and would effect the same result as though the words “deputy,” “assistant,” “agent,” and “employee” had been inserted in said section 1. It is said that, if these words had been inserted in the section by amendment, it would have been necessary to re-enact and publish said section 1 as so amended, and that therefore the method pursued by the Legislature of defining the word “officer” instead of rewriting and re-enacting section 1 to add the additional words was an unconstitutional and invalid one. The argument is in effect that the scope of section 1 of the act could not be enlarged except by rewriting, re-enacting, and publishing the section so as to include the amendatory provisions. The point we are called upon to decide is this: If the effect of amending one statute or one section of a statute is to indirectly bring about a change in the operation of another statute or other sections of the same statute, is the amendment one which must be adopted by the procedure prescribed by the Constitution and which would have to be followed if the changes in the existing laws were accomplished by direct amendment of such laws? The answer to the question is found in the reasoning underlying the rule, consistently followed by our courts, that the constitutional provision relates to direct amendments and not to amendments effected through indirection or implication. The purpose of section 24 of article 4 was stated by the Supreme Court in Hellman v. Shoulters, 114 Cal. 136, 44 P. 915, 920, 45 P. 1057, in quoting Judge Cooley in People v. Mahaney, 13 Mich. 481, as follows: “The mischief designed to be remedied was the enactment of statutes in terms so blind that legislators themselves were sometimes deceived in regard to their effect, and the public, from the difficulty of making the necessary examination and comparison, failed to become apprised of the changes made in the laws. An amendatory act which purported only to insert certain words, or to substitute one phrase for another, in an act or section which was only referred to, but not republished, was well calculated to mislead the careless as to its effect, and was perhaps sometimes drawn in that form for that express purpose. Endless confusion was thus introduced into the law, and the constitution wisely prohibited such legislation.” The purpose was not, however, to require that every act passed by the Legislature should be regarded as amendatory of existing statutes merely because it affected the operation of such statutes. As stated by Justice Temple in the case just referred to: “To say that every statute which thus affects the operation of another is therefore an amendment of it, would introduce into the law an element of uncertainty which no one can estimate. It is impossible for the wisest legislator to know in advance how every statute proposed would affect the operation of existing laws.” It was held in that case that, if the Street Bond Act of 1891 (St.1891, p. 116) amended by implication the Vrooman Act of 1885, as in fact it purported to do as stated in its title, “* * * by adding thereto an additional part numbered four, consisting of sections 38 [etc.], relative to a system of street improvement bonds,” yet it was not such an amendment as required re-enactment or publication of the Vrooman Act. It was said: “But an act is not revised, nor a section amended, within the purview of the above inhibition, by an act which adds new sections which leave in full operation all the language of the statute which it purports to amend.” In Deyoe v. Superior Court, 140 Cal. 476, 74 P. 28, 98 Am.St.Rep. 73, the same rule was applied to an amendment by implication. In Gadd v. McGuire, 69 Cal.App. 347, 231 P. 754, 763, the court considered an amendment passed in 1923 (St.1923, p. 633) to the City Boundary Line Act of 1911 (St.1911, p. 1018), in which it was provided, that, for work done under the latter act, bonds might be issued under the provisions of an act of the Legislature of 1893 (St.1893, p. 175), which provided for the issuance of bonds to represent assessments for the cost of street work. It was contended that the new legislation amounted to a revision or amendment of the earlier. This was held not to be the case. The court said: “Every one of the provisions of the bond act of 1893, in force when the City Boundary Line Act became a law, remained in full force for the accomplishment of every purpose for which it was originally designed. The later act, by virtue of its own terms, merely extends the provisions of the earlier act to the issuance of bonds to represent assessments levied under the later act. By so doing, the later act simply incorporates into itself those provisions of the earlier act which are suitable to its purposes.”

In Re Coburn, 165 Cal. 202, 131 P. 352, 356, it was contended that section 1767 of the Code of Civil Procedure was invalid because it defined the word “incompetent,” and, as the word was used in other sections, namely, 1763 and 1764 of the same Code, and such other sections were not reenacted so as to include the definition given by section 1767, that the constitutional requirement had not been observed. In disposing of this contention the court said: “In enacting section 1767, the Legislature was not undertaking to alter the existing statute, but merely to clarify and make more certain the meaning and effect of those sections. If, in so doing the construction which would otherwise have been given to sections 1763 and 1764 was, to some extent, changed by the new legislation, the modification of the earlier statutes was not an amendment of them, within the meaning of the Constitution.” These cases and the later case of Evans v. Superior Court, 215 Cal. 58, 8 P.(2d) 467, follow the rule laid down in Hellman v. Shoulters, supra, to the effect that amendments by implication are not within the constitutional inhibition.

It is well established by the foregoing cases that the requirements of the Constitution apply only to statutes which are directly revised or amended. Purely consequential changes in the operation of other laws affected by new legislation, or amendment of old, are not within the provision.

It is not claimed by appellant that the Legislature may not in one section of an act define words used in other sections, although carried to its logical conclusion such is the effect of the argument. This is a very common and proper legislative practice. The original section 4 of the 1931 act defined the words “person” and “property.” The amended section 4 did not change the definition of the word “person,” but did change the meaning of the word “property.” It could not well be contended that there was anything improper in this, but it is claimed that the section could not be amended effectively by merely defining the words “public officer,” “officer,” and “officers.” It is said that if any other than a common definition of those words was to be used in the future, such result could only be accomplished by re-enacting section 1 so that the section, as re-enacted, would use, not only the words of the original section, but, in addition thereto, the words “deputy,” “assistant,” “agent,” and “employee.” But to give effect to this argument would apply the inhibition of the Constitution to situations which were not intended to be governed thereby. The word “section” as used in the Constitution means a section of an act. The cases provided for are those in which a law is revised or a section of a law is amended. If the provision of the Constitution is to be given a literal construction, we would have to say that the only section amended was section 4, and, inasmuch as that section was re-enacted and published as amended, the constitutional mandate has been fully complied with. The only direct amendment was of section 4. If we say that the amendment of section 4, by broadening the scope of section 1, impliedly amended the latter section, such implied amendment did not necessitate the re-enactment and publication of section 1.

New and independent laws are not within the inhibition of section 24 of article 4 of the Constitution, amendments by implication are likewise excluded, as we have seen. The addition of new sections to a Code which change the operation of existing sections of the same Code does not necessitate a re-enactment of such other sections. People v. Peete, 54 Cal.App. 333, 202 P. 51. The constitutional provision does not mean that a section defining words and phrases cannot be amended so as to give to them a different meaning than they would have under the original definition, unless each law and section of a law containing such words and phrases is re-enacted, nor does it mean that there would have to be a re-enactment of all affected statutes if any words or phrases used therein should be given a new meaning by the addition of a new section to a statute in which such words or phrases were used. Appellant's position is not supported by any of the authorities cited. We are referred by appellant to numerous cases from other jurisdictions having constitutional provisions substantially the same as ours, which it is unnecessary to discuss except in a general way. The several jurisdictions in which they arose recognize the rule that amendments by implication are not governed by the requirement of the Constitution for re-enactment of amended statutes, but the amendments involved in the cases cited were held to be direct amendments, violative of the letter and spirit of the constitutional limitation. In none of them was there presented for decision the question of implied amendment of other sections of an act, accomplished by means of the amendment of a section, adopted in proper form, defining words and phrases used in the act. This class of legislation is different from most. For illustration, if we assume that a word defined in one of the comprehensive laws, such as the Corporate Securities Act or the Workmen's Compensation Act, should be redefined, such change might affect a great number of different sections of the act, but the re-enactment of those sections would be useless because their language would be the same although it would have been given a different meaning. And here, if section 1 of the act of 1931 had been re-enacted, it would have read the same as it did originally unless the new definitions were carried into it. To say that words used in a statute may not be defined and redefined in a single section of a law would be to condemn, for no sound reason, a legislative practice that is universally followed and, as far as we can see, has everything in its favor.

The title of the amending act was comprehensive. It clearly expressed the purpose of the amendment to enlarge the scope of the original act so as to include, in the requirement for filing claims, cases in which such filing had not been required theretofore. The entire act as presented to the Legislature for adoption was not deceptive, but, upon the contrary, substantially conveyed to the members of the Legislature the same understanding of its purpose that they would have had if the more elaborate and cumbersome procedure had been followed of inserting the amendatory definitions throughout the body of the act. We have quoted the title of the amending act in full in order to point out that, where care is taken to comprehensively state in the title of such an act the broader scope being given, by a redefinition or a new definition, to words or phrases used in existing laws, no defeat or evasion of the constitutional inhibition is accomplished. The procedure contended for by appellant would result in endless and wholly unnecessary embarassment and confusion of lawmaking bodies if applied to amendments such as the one in question. The method followed by the Legislature, both in letter and in spirit, meets the constitutional requirement.

It follows, therefore, that the claim of plaintiff for damages which he suffered through the alleged negligence of an employee of the defendant city was one which he was required, under the law as amended, to present and file as required by section 1 of the act. His failure so to do, within 90 days after the accident, constituted a valid defense to the action. Thompson v. County of Los Angeles, 140 Cal.App. 73, 35 P.(2d) 185.

The judgment is affirmed.

SHINN, Justice pro tem.

We concur: YORK, Acting P. J.; DORAN, J.

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