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L.A. advised to pay $185,000 to driver hit by Huizar's SUV

Disasters and AccidentsTransportation DisastersHighway and Road DisastersPedestrian and Cyclist DisastersJose HuizarLos Angeles City Council

Attorneys for Los Angeles have recommended that the City Council pay $185,000 to settle a lawsuit over a car crash involving Councilman Jose Huizar, according to records and interviews.

The payment stems from an incident in 2012, in which Huizar — driving a city-owned SUV — rear-ended a car driven by David Ceja, a former Huntington Park police officer.

Humberto Guizar, Ceja's lawyer, described the payment as a compromise, saying that he could have "possibly gotten a seven-figure amount" had the case gone to trial. Ceja has had epidural injections in his lower back and may need surgery as a result of the collision, Guizar said.

"This was not a minor fender-bender, where he just had some muscle spasms," he added. "He had a serious spinal injury."

The payout still requires a vote by the council. A spokesman for Huizar, who represents neighborhoods stretching from downtown to Eagle Rock, said the councilman had no comment.

The proposed settlement comes two months after a city car carrying Mayor Eric Garcetti hit a pedestrian one block from City Hall. Juliet Nicolas, 60, was hospitalized for three days after she was struck by the mayor's SUV, which was driven by a police officer. No legal claims have been filed against the city so far as a result of that collision, officials said.

The city also paid $7,500 in 2007 to a pedestrian in Echo Park who was hit in the arm by a city car driven by Garcetti when he was a councilman.

In the 2012 accident, Ceja was stopped at a red light on 1st Street in Boyle Heights when his Saturn L200 was struck from behind by Huizar's 2008 Toyota Highlander. The impact totaled Ceja's car and pushed it into a third vehicle.

Lawyers for the city declined to comment. But a confidential memo prepared by lawyers for City Atty. Mike Feuer said Ceja has incurred $65,000 in medical expenses so far. A copy of that memo was obtained by The Times.

"Given the fact that the city will be found liable and that the damages are clear and adverse to the city, we believe that it is in the city's interest to resolve this," said the memo, which argues in favor of paying the $185,000.

Two months after the accident, Guizar filed a legal claim on Ceja's behalf seeking $510,000. At the time, he questioned whether Huizar, 45, received special treatment from Los Angeles Police Department investigators. Guizar said police waited 21/2 hours to administer a Breathalyzer test to Huizar to determine whether he had been drinking.

Huizar tested at 0% and was not arrested. The legal limit for blood-alcohol content is 0.08%.

Asked about those issues Friday, Guizar said he now has "no concerns" about the way police handled Huizar. "I know he has issues in his home, personal issues, and I didn't want to drag him through the mud on this case," he said. "If we can resolve it for his sake and my client's sake, it's all good."

Last year, Huizar's youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. In addition, he and the city are being sued by Francine Godoy, a former Huizar staffer who has accused the councilman of sexual harassment.

Huizar has called Godoy's allegations false, but said he did have a consensual relationship with Godoy, one that caused him to apologize to his wife and focus on repairing his marriage.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Disasters and AccidentsTransportation DisastersHighway and Road DisastersPedestrian and Cyclist DisastersJose HuizarLos Angeles City Council
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