Attorneys to settle mudslide lawsuit

The Pasadena law firm that defended Glendale in lawsuits stemming from a 2005 mudslide that cost the city nearly $15.4 million has agreed to pay $98,500 to settle a malpractice lawsuit, according to a City Council announcement this week.

Glendale sued the firm, Sabaitis-O’Callaghan, in 2011, claiming that its legal advice led to the city losing out on an attempt to recoup a nearly $1-million payout to residents who had filed a damage claim, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.

The settlement agreement announced on Tuesday, although small compared to the $15.4 million Glendale was forced to pay out, is not the first influx of cash the city has received in connection to the legal fallout from the mudslide.

In July, Glendale recouped $1.1 million from its insurer, American International Group, to settle a mudslide-related lawsuit, and in September, it made $700,000 after auctioning off five damaged parcels of land it got through settlements with affected residents.

The mudslide swamped homes in Northeast Glendale during heavy rains in January 2005, prompting several affected residents to file lawsuits alleging inadequate infrastructure failed to protect their properties.

Sabaitis-O’Callaghan began with a complicated settlement matter with two residents of a damaged home who had sued the city and the consulting firm that did the original engineering work in the hillsides.

On advice from the law firm, the city settled with the residents, Arpinee and Varouj Bedikian, for $990,000, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court documents. At the same time, the law firm asked the Bedikian’s to drop their lawsuit against engineering consultant Geosoils Consultants Inc. so the city could go after the Van Nuys company.

The plan didn’t pan out as expected and the city didn’t get the money from Geosoils to recover the $990,000 payment.

Glendale officials blame the mishap on Sabaitis-O’Callaghan. But in a court declaration, Frank Sabaitis, managing partner at the firm, said the city attorney’s office developed and agreed on the legal strategy used in the Bedikian matter.

The city did get $200,000 from Geosoils in February 2011 through other means, which was used to pay for about half of the restorations done to the hillsides near the damaged area on Glenmore Boulevard and Gladys Avenue.

Steve Belilove, Sabaitis’ attorney, did not return multiple requests for comment. Glendale City Atty. Mike Garcia declined to comment on the matter because although an agreement was reached, a settlement contract had yet to be signed.

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