MARCH 11, 1998  

L.A. County Settles 3 Lawsuits

By Lauren Blau

Daily Journal Staff Writer

        The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to settle three lawsuits for a total of $675,000, including a sexual and racial harassment case against the sheriff's department.
        In the sexual harassment lawsuit, Pamela Lee-Carey contended that as a sheriff's deputy, she was subjected to numerous acts of sexual and racial harassment by various members of the department.Lee-Carey v. County of Los Angeles,
        According to a summary of the case by Roger H. Granbo, a deputy county counsel, and Calvin House, a private attorney working for the county on the case, Lee-Carey claimed sexually explicit pictures and cartoons were posted at her assigned stations. She also said she was subjected to racial jokes and comments throughout her career.
        The alleged harassment culminated in June 1994 when Lee-Carey, who is black, was injured during a physical altercation with a male sheriff's deputy in the briefing room at the Metro Blue Line station. She contends the argument was racially motivated. She hasn't returned to work since the incident and has been granted a disability retirement. A workers' compensation proceeding is pending.
        Attorney Timothy Midgley of Los Angeles' Manes & Watson, who represents Lee-Carey, said she "had virtually a mental breakdown because of the treatment she got."
        Midgley, whose client now lives in Maryland, said he hopes that her settlement may help other women who have been harassed or discriminated against come forward.
        In its evaluation of the case, the county attorneys state that although the evidence is disputed, the plaintiff would have sexually explicit pictures and cartoons to present at trial if the case wasn't settled. They also estimated she would be entitled to $100,000 to $150,000 in attorney fees if she were to prevail at trial.
        "In addition, our psychological expert confirms that she is suffering severe emotional problems," the attorneys wrote. "A jury is likely to believe that the emotional problems could not have resulted unless she was subjected to ongoing harassment while employed with the Sheriff's Department."
        So far, the county has incurred $139,205 in attorney fees and $24,979 in costs. A large part of the fees, the attorneys wrote, resulted from a court discovery ruling ordering the department to produce more than 120 internal investigation files about other employment discrimination cases.
        In another case, county supervisors agreed to pay $315,000 to settle a breach of contract lawsuit brought by Radich Construction Inc. against Waterworks District No. 29 over construction of water system improvements in the Point Dume area of Malibu.
 Radich Construction Inc. v. County of Los Angeles, BC152960.
        The lawsuit stems from changes Radich needed to make after the county discovered the project area included archaeologically sensitive Chumash Indian burial grounds, according to a summary of the case from Paul I. Yoshinaga, a senior deputy county counsel, and James Leonard Brown, a private attorney hired to work on the case.
        Radich contends the county's bid package and project specifications were inadequate because of the sensitive archaeological site.
        So far, the county has incurred $44,000 in attorney fees and $1,300 in costs, amounts that would "increase significantly" if the case were to go to trial.
        Attorney Randall J. Pitre of Pitre & Teunisse in San Dimas, who represents Radich, said the settlement was a result of mediation. "My client had substantially more damages they were looking for, but all things considered, they felt this settlement was prudent," he said.
        In the third lawsuit, the board authorized spending $200,000 to settle a personal injury lawsuit that stemmed from a collision between a sheriff's patrol unit and a private vehicle on April 16, 1992, in Lancaster.
 Metzler v. County of Los Angeles, MC004090.
        So far, the county has incurred $36,175.21 in attorney fees and $16,786.79 in expenses in a case in which the city of Lancaster already has settled for $50,000 and a construction contractor, CA Rasmussen, has settled for $100,000.
        A summary of the case from Philip S. Miller, a principal deputy county counsel, and Normal Pearl, a private attorney working on the case for the county, states Metzler was inching forward at an intersection because his visibility was limited by construction equipment.
        When he saw far enough down the street that there wasn't traffic that "presented a hazard to him," he began to accelerate through the intersection. As he did so, a sheriff's patrol car, which was chasing another vehicle at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour, drove into the intersection and collided with Metzler's car.
        In an evaluation of the case, the county attorneys say they believe a judge or jury would find the sheriff's deputy negligent because he was driving at a high rate of speed in an area of limited visibility without a siren.


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