Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, November 19, 2002


Page 3


Claims Board Recommends County Settle Lawsuit Over Disputed Medical Malpractice Fees for $550,000


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Los Angeles County Claims Board voted yesterday to recommend settling for $550,000 a lawsuit claiming that the county shirked its obligation to defend a hospital from a lawsuit brought by a patient referred by the county.

The board voted to settle the suit by Truck Insurance Exchange to recover defense fees in the case of Rosa Panduro, a Medi-Cal patient who is unable to walk due to complications from the breech birth of her daughter on Oct. 25, 1992. A jury found that the county was 90 percent negligent, but cleared the Santa Marta Hospital of any wrongdoing. The county Board of Supervisors settled its part of the lawsuit for $5 million on Feb. 3, 1999.

 Truck sued the county for costs it had incurred defending the hospital in that action, contending the county was responsible for those costs. The county filed a cross-complaint alleging a conflict of interests on behalf of one of Truck’s attorneys, and also claimed that because the county was listed on the hospital’s insurance policy as an additional insured, Truck was still required to shoulder the cost of the suit.

The conflict-of-interest part of the lawsuit settled after mediation for $950,000, to be paid to the county. Because the Court of Appeal previously ruled that the county was liable for its own actions in Panduro’s lawsuit, rather than being liable through the hospital, county counsel said the county is unlikely to win the other part of its cross-complaint. For that reason, the claims board voted to recommend dismissing the cross-complaint and paying $550,000 to Truck out of the $950,000 settlement the county received previously.

Because the proposed settlement is for more than $100,000, the county Board of Supervisors must approve it. Supervisors are scheduled to consider the settlement at their Dec. 3 meeting.

 The claims board also voted to settle a lawsuit brought by Martin Alvarez for false imprisonment, loss of income and violation of civil rights. Alvarez, a self-employed neon sign maker, was jailed by the county sheriff’s department on May 31, 2001 for terrorist threats and an outstanding warrant. He pled guilty to the first charge on June 4, 2001 in exchange for time served, and was to be arraigned for the outstanding warrant three days later, on June 7, 2001, but a clerk accidentally entered his arraignment date as Aug. 7, 2001 instead. His complaint says sheriff’s deputies refused to look into the matter despite many requests he made over the next two months. He was sentenced to time served and released on Aug. 7, 2001.

 The claims board voted to settle with Alvarez for $30,000. Together with attorney’s fees, the total cost to the county of settling the suit will be $38,050.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company