Tuesday, August 6, 2002
Panel Approves $75,000 Settlement of Court Reporter’s Harassment Claim
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The county will pay $75,000 to a court reporter who said a sheriff’s deputy frequently hugged and kissed her and made offensive sexual comments to her when they were working together at the Burbank courthouse, a county claims panel said yesterday.
Deputy John Penny and court reporter Jeanette Soto were both assigned to the Burbank courthouse from November 1999 to October 2000 and during that time Penny hugged, kissed, and massaged Soto’s neck approximately 10 separate times, Soto claimed.
The physical contact between Soto and Penny occurred in the judge’s chambers, Soto’s office or in a back hallway when the pair was alone during work hours, according to a county report prepared for the Claims Board.
On one occasion Penny pointed his gun at the courtroom door and told Soto “Jeanette look what I can do!” according to the county report.
Soto claimed the comment and the physical contact between her and Penny made her fear for her safety, according to county documents. Soto also alleged the deputy stalked her.
In October 2000 Soto complained to the Sheriff’s Department and Penny was transferred the next day to the Glendale courthouse.
Penny, according to the county report, denied that he did anything wrong and said he was unaware that any contact he had with Soto was unwelcome.
When the county investigated Soto’s complaints further, two other court reporters came forward and claimed they also had been harassed by Penny.
County counsel estimated that the lawsuit could cost the county $250,000 if a jury believed Soto and the other two court reporters over the deputy and recommended the county settle the case.
Penny is no longer with the department, a department spokeswoman said. Soto is still working for the Los Angeles Superior Court, a court spokeswoman said.
The Claims Board also recommended a $500,000 payment to a man who suffered severe brain damage and slipped into a vegetative coma after medical personnel at County-USC Medical Center failed to address recognize the man was at a greater risk of having a seizure and went ahead with surgery to correct his severely blocked arteries.
Medical personnel ignored test results that showed 31-year-old Gil Broydes was at greater risk of nausea, vomiting and of having a seizure and proceeded with surgery on July 2, 1999 to relieve the 90 percent blockage of the artery that supplies blood to the brain, according to a county report. During the surgery a plastic tube was inserted into the artery to restore 90 percent of normal blood flow.
Immediately afterward Broydes complained of nausea and began to vomit. After being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, he suffered a grand mal seizure and stopped breathing. He was given oxygen and a breathing tube was inserted to ensure he would continue to breathe normally.
“However, medical personnel failed to appreciate that his symptoms might be evidence of an evolving neurological event resulting from a lack of blood flow to the brain,” according to a county report.
It was not until three hours after Broydes initially suffered the epileptic seizure that medical personnel discovered that a blood clot had completely covered the plastic tube in the artery, resulting in the loss of blood flow to his brain. The blood clot was then successfully dissolved with intravenous drugs, but not before Broydes suffered dead tissue in several areas of his brain.
In August 1999 Broydes was transferred to a long-term care facility where he remains in a vegetative coma resulting from severe brain damage.
The panel also recommended the county assume Broydes’ Medi-Cal lien for $401,914.98.
Broydes’ settlement, which exceeds the claim’s board’s $100,000 approval limit, must still be signed off by the county Board of Supervisors.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company