Tuesday, April 28, 2009
City Attorney Delays Settling Cases, Cites Budget Constraints
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Lawyers in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office have been instructed not to enter settlements requiring payment before July, a senior member of the office confirmed yesterday.
Assistant City Attorney Michael Claessens, who supervises the city’s liability defense lawyers, said the office would structure all settlements requiring payment from the city’s primary liability accounts so that payment need not be made in the current fiscal year.
The city budgeted $32 million to pay general liability claims in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Claessens informed Attorneys in the office on April 21 that they would generally not be able to promise settlements payable this fiscal year.
Claessens emphasized that settlement negotiations are expected to proceed normally. But any agreements that are reached will have to be structured so that payment is made in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, he told the MetNews.
One personal injury attorney with cases against the city said the announcement does not represent a significant shift.
“It’s a song we’ve heard over the years,” Arnold Gross, of the Sherman Oaks office of Burg & Brock,” commented. “It’s not the first time it has happened.”
The city, he added, “is famous for settling cases and waiting three, four months to pay,” even in years when there is no budget crisis.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company