Wednesday, July 18, 2001
Woman Who Claims She Was Falsely Imprisoned by Sheriff’s Deputies Rejects Settlement With County
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles woman who claimed she was falsely arrested and imprisoned by Sheriff’s deputies will reject a county settlement offer of $40,000 and proceed to trial in a lawsuit against the department, her attorney said yesterday.
The county claims board recommended a payment offer of $40,000 Monday to Sue Ellen Torres, who claimed she spent a night in jail after an off-duty Sheriff’s deputy falsely accused her of stealing a purse and had her arrested.
Torres was charged with petty theft and spent the night in jail, but the charges were later dropped.
Torres’ attorney, Jim Muller, said he wasn’t satisfied with the offer.
“It’s just not enough money,” Muller said. “It was a very traumatic experience for someone who had not spent a night in jail before.”
Muller said he’s racked up more than $40,000 worth of time on the case and demanded $85,000 in negotiations. Muller said that he does not plan to respond to the settlement offer, which under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 68, is the same as a rejection.
The plaintiff has 15 days from the day the offer is officially filed to respond or reject the offer, Assistant County Counsel Lou Aguilar said.
If a response is not given or the offer is rejected, the case will go to trial, he said.
“We have finalized our offer,” Aguilar said.
Torres, 49, claimed that while shopping for her son’s birthday cake and dinner at a Norwalk Costco, an off-duty Sheriff’s deputy, Sgt. Mary Campbell, suddenly placed a carotid artery hold on her and accused Torres of stealing a purse, which was in fact Torres’.
In pleadings in U.S. District Court, Torres claimed that while she had mistakenly pushed the deputy’s cart for a few feet, she held Campbell and additional deputies who responded to the scene at the insistence of Campbell ignored information provided by store security which demonstrated she had not committed a crime.
Torres claimed that Campbell “used her position as a sergeant with the sheriff’s department” to persuade the responding deputies to arrest her.
Muller questioned Campbell’s common sense in dealing with the situation.
“I think she has a serious problem with judgment,” Muller said. “No one in their right mind would have arrested someone under these circumstances.”
Muller said that he estimated that trial could last between four and five days, but that he was confidant a jury would award more than the $40,000 settlement offer.
If a jury does find in favor of Torres for a sum less than $30,000, a limit will be placed on the amount of attorney’s fees which Muller can recover, due to Rule 68, Aguilar said.
The two deputies who arrested Torres are also named as defendants in the suit.
A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department declined comment on the case.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company