Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, July 16, 2002


Page 3


Panel Recommends $1.7 Million Settlement in Deputy’s Accident




A panel of county officials yesterday recommended the settlement of two couples’ suits, one for $1.6 million and one for $155,000, claiming their stopped car was rear-ended by a reserve sheriff deputy responding to a call.

The $1.6 million to be paid to Paul and Miriam Goldstein, who suffers from brain damage from the accident, is the largest settlement recommendation by the Los Angeles County Claims Board at least since April. The panel has approved, or recommended for approval, four other cases involving car accidents with county employees since its April meeting. The payouts, approved by the County Board of Supervisors, have totaled over $1.5 million.

The Claims Board can approve settlements up to $100,000.  Any amount above that has to be approved by county supervisors. Supervisors traditionally review recommendations two weeks after the Claims Board.

The two settlements involve an August 2000 collision in which a reserve sheriff’s deputy, who was responding to a call in a search and rescue utility truck with lights and sirens on, rear-ended Paul and Miriam Goldstein’s stopped car. Scott and Rachel Hayes were sitting in the back seat. They will get the $155,000 settlement, if it is approved by county supervisors.

Reserve deputies are individuals who go through a modified form of law enforcement training and are paid small salaries. They are often professionals who do not have the time to be a full-time deputy and usually work a minimum of one shift a month, Deputy Harry Drucker said.

The reserve deputy was driving about 50 miles per hour on Pacific Coast Highway, in Malibu, to a call where a car had reportedly gone over the side of a hill. On the way, he reached the crest of a hill, and was not able to slow down in time to avoid the traffic on the other side.

Paul Goldstein, the driver of the car the reserve deputy hit, suffered a broken rib and numerous cuts and bruises. His wife, Miriam, who was in the front passenger seat, was knocked unconscious from the accident. She was airlifted to Harbor-UCLA hospital where she underwent emergency brain surgery. She currently experiences dizziness, blurred vision, trouble hearing and other cognitive defects from the accident, according to a County Counsel report prepared for the Claims Board.

Scott Hayes, who had not been wearing a seatbelt, suffered a broken arm and finger, a deep cut under his left eye and neck and back pain, for which he underwent physical therapy. Rachel Hayes suffered temporary facial paralysis, headaches and a broken tooth, the County Counsel report said.

County Counsel estimated that the Hayes could get a quarter of a million dollars and the Goldsteins could be awarded nearly $2.4 million if the suit went to a jury. The county has already spent nearly $65,000 on attorneys fees and court costs in the two suits.

The reserve deputy received a written reprimand after the accident and was barred from using a county vehicle for four months. He also received collision awareness training, and a supervisor said the deputy successfully completed the training.

The Claims Board also recommended for approval a $1 million settlement of two lawsuits brought on by a woman, claiming that the Department of Children and Family Services’ negligence led to one of her son’s death and another being wrongfully taken from her for over a year.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company