City payouts add to liability deficit

After a Glendale police officer made a left turn into oncoming traffic and crashed into another car in which a passenger was left with neck, arm and knee injuries, a damage claim ended up costing the city $112,000.

The case is one of about 25 claims settled from July through September that have drained the city’s liability fund of around $265,000, according to city and court records.

The payouts are another strain on a liability fund that already is in the red. The fund had a $10-million deficit starting in July 2009, which was somewhat replenished by money from other city funds, said Finance Director Bob Elliot. As of June of last year, the fund had a $559,000 deficit, according to the latest data available.

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FOR THE RECORD: 

An article on Nov. 10 titled “Claims sap liability fund,” incorrectly spelled the name of Ann Maurer, Glendale’s litigation general counsel. In addition, the article should have made clear that trip-and-fall cases typically take longer to process than other claims due to their relative complexity in determining liability.

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The claims, which range from $200 to the $112,000 case, include several auto-related accidents, a trip-and-fall case and property damage.

Several of the claims with hefty price tags were at first denied by the city, including the officer-involved collision. But after they escalated into lawsuits, city officials agreed to settle. While trip-and-fall cases rarely lead to large payouts, the city tends to settle auto claims if there is strong evidence a city employee was at fault, said Assistant City Atty. Ann Mauer.

“The majority we settle really are auto,” Mauer said.

The $112,000-payout settled a case in which a narcotics officer driving a gray Ford Explorer failed to yield while turning left. The failure, which occurred in January, 2010, led to a car crash at the intersection of San Fernando Road and Sheldon Street in Sun Valley. Carmen Ibarra was sitting in the passenger seat of the car that struck the Explorer and was injured.

The settlement covered car damage and bodily injuries.

Another auto accident, this one involving a city dump truck and a limited-production Porsche GT3, led to an $18,500-payout in September. The Porsche owner, Steven Stepanian, had initially asked for $40,000, records show.

Stepanian was driving his Porsche southbound on Verdugo Road near Broadview Drive in January when the dump truck collided with his car while changing lanes. It took 37 days to repair damage to the Porsche, at a cost of about $11,500. Stepanian argued in the claim that he also should be paid for the diminished value of his “very rare and collectible vehicle,” and for not being able to use the car for several weeks.

Raya Sarkissian got a $30,000 settlement after suing the city following a trip and fall on an uneven sidewalk in a residential area. Sarkissian was walking on the south side of West Loraine Street, west of Viola Avenue, where she tripped in June 2009, according to court documents.

“Raya Sarkissian was grievously and permanently injured and hurt in her health, strength and activity, sustaining injuries to her nervous system and physical pain,” according to the lawsuit filed in October 2009 after the city denied her original claim.

Mauer said the city is typically slow to settle trip-and-fall cases involving uneven surfaces, but in this case, there was a possibility that a resident had alerted the city prior to the fall of the sidewalk’s disrepair.

“The main issue on these is notice, whether or not we can say we didn’t have notice of these conditions,” Mauer said.
 
 

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