Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, June 25, 2002


Page 3


Panel Recommends County Pay $475,000 to Settle Five Suits




A county panel yesterday recommended paying $475,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman whose lung cancer was not spotted by county medical workers and is expected to live only another six months.

The county Claims Board also recommended payments in cases brought by a pregnant woman who was improperly strip searched and held in jail overnight after her arrest for failure to appear in court on a traffic ticket, and two cases arising from traffic accidents involving county employees.

To settle all the suits it will cost the county approximately $800,000.

The board also recommended accepting $141,000 to settle a case the county brought against contractors for faulty work.

The medical malpractice suit was brought by Shirley Gipson, 40, and her minor son, Stephen Scott-Cooper. Gipson was first examined at the High Desert Hospital in May 1999 for a suspected tumor or infection on her right lung, but the biopsy was inconclusive. The test was repeated a month later, but the results were uncertain again.

In July, a computer synthesis scan showed that the abnormal object on Gipson’s lung had enlarged and begun to form cavities, which indicates a malignant tumor. The CT scan was misinterpreted, however, and no further examination was scheduled.

In September, a second CT scan, which showed continued growth of the possible tumor, was misread again and no further tests was scheduled.

Gipson went to UCLA Medical Center on May 10, 2000 and an x-ray and tests confirmed by June that she had lung cancer and could not be operated on.

The package includes a cash settlement of $176,250 for Gipson as well as payment of her medical care. The county is also recommending $176,250 for the settlement of a possible future wrongful death suit by Scott-Cooper. Attorney’s fees for the family come to $122,500.

The county has already spent $42,847.46 on attorney fees and court costs. County counsel estimated that if the case went to court Gipson could be awarded $675,000 and her son could later ask for $400,000 in a wrongful death suit.

The county will also repay Medi-Cal $26,550.79 for treatment Gipson received, bringing the total cost for the county to $544,398.25.

The county Board of Supervisors will be reviewing another medical malpractice settlement, Small v. County of Los Angeles, at its meeting today. The settlement for $800,000, recommended by the Claims Board on June 3, is expected to come out of the strained Sheriff Department’s budget.

Settlement of Gipson’s case is expected to come out of the Department of Health Services’ budget, Deputy County Counsel Kevin C. Brazile said.

In the improper strip search claim, Brandi Michelle Beaudoin claimed that when she was arrested on a warrant for not coming to court for a traffic ticket, she was transferred to the Sheriff Department’s Twin Towers county jail, where she was mixed with felons and strip searched. Despite posting bail at 10 p.m. on December 5, 2000, she was not released until 5:30 a.m. the next day.

Beaudoin says that the embarrassment and stress of the incident led her to begin pre-term labor twice; each time, labor was prevented when she went to the hospital.

While the Sheriff’s Department could not confirm or deny a strip search, the delay in Beaudoin’s release could be seen as negligent by a jury, county counsel reported.

The case would cost the county $150,000 to settle and $37,429.41 in accrued legal costs.

Two cases involving car accidents with county employees were settled yesterday.

A head-on collision between a sheriff’s deputy on motorcycle and a car was settled for $61,987. The deputy, who died in the accident, lost control on a turn and crossed the center line into the driver’s lane.

The second accident, settled for $100,000, occurred when car driven by a DHS employee rear-ended a family’s car, which, in turn, hit another car. The DHS vehicle was determined to have faulty brakes.

The Claims Board also recommended settlement of a case that pitted the county against several contractors designing and constructing the Doris Coast Pump Station. The pumps and engines used in the project were found incompatible and created a risk of flooding to near-by residential areas.

County counsel recommended settling the case for $141,000 because a jury may determine that the county was partly at fault for approving the designs.

The Claims Board can approve settlements of $100,000 or less, but refers any settlement above that amount to the Board of Supervisors for approval. The board is set to review the settlements recommended today at its July 9 meeting.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company