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Governmental Liability and Public Entity Defense



Attorneys in the firm have handled governmental liability matters, including alleged dangerous conditions on public property, road design cases, cases involving alleged illegal detention, false arrest and excessive force. Our experience also includes cases of police brutality, the responsibility of the County of Los Angeles in placing children in foster homes, civil rights litigation, and a case involving a plaintiff who had been sentenced to spend time in a county youth detention facility who was allegedly "lost in the shuffle" and as a result served approximately 280 days beyond his sentence.

Our lawyers have represented various public entities, including Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles Community College District, Centinela Valley Union High School District, San Diego Unified School District, California State University, the University of California, and a prominent private local university.

Most recently, Charles Messer and Edgar De Vera defended LAUSD and its teacher against an autistic/special education plaintiff's claim of assault and battery, failure to comply with Special Education statutes including IDEA, negligent training and negligent student placement. Following a jury trial in Glendale on April 27, 2005, Mr. Messer obtained a defense verdict for LAUSD and the teacher.

We have defended public entities against claims involving alleged violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and have defended academic institutions in wrongful termination and discrimination cases. We represented a major private university in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case involving claimed repeated access problems seeking injunctive relief and damages. We have handled cases on behalf of public entities in both federal and state court.

We have represented various public entities, including:

Los Angeles Community College District
  • We are on the panel for outside counsel for Los Angeles Community College District. We are approved to handle torts, employment, construction litigation, insurance, CEQA, and appellate matters for the district. We have handled or are currently handling:

  • a consolidated personal injury/torts lawsuit in which students from LACCD were traveling in a school van for a field trip when they were injured when another vehicle rearended the van on the freeway. The force of the impact spun the van 180 degrees and the van burst into flames. There were 8 students in the van, 7 of whom were injured. Two injured students and the driver of the other car remain as plaintiffs. We were successful in resolving one case based on school district immunity and extricated the District from the lawsuit on the same basis.

  • a personal injury case involving a student who alleged she was walking down a dark outdoor walkway and tripped over an uneven rise between two slabs of concrete, thereby fracturing her hip. She claimed over $60,000 in medical invoices including surgery and claimed future surgery was necessary, along with over $120,000 in claimed lost earnings. We were able to settle the case for a minimal amount ($15,000) shortly prior to trial.

  • a personal injury case in which the plaintiff alleged a defective product (an industrial coffee machine) at the college, which she was improperly trained to use, caused severe burns to her arm when she used the machine. The case was dismissed without payment after we successfully moved to dismiss the matter for plaintiff's failure to provide answers to discovery.

  • a premises liability case in which the plaintiff alleged a dangerous condition on the premises of the college caused her to slip and fall. The case was quickly resolved for a nuisance value settlement.

  • a premises liability case in which plaintiff claims she fractured her ankle after falling in the men's gym where she was watching a basketball game.

  • a personal injury case which occurred in a college class room, where the plaintiff claimed that while taking an examination, she stood up from a roller chair in which she was sitting to allow a teacher to move behind her. She alleged that the teacher bumped the chair because when she sat down again, she fell to the floor. This matter settled for a minimal amount.

  • an alleged assault and battery case where plaintiff claims his supervisor grabbed the keys from his hand and caused emotional distress such that plaintiff is unable to work. Our successful demurrer extricated LACCD from the lawsuit. Our subsequent demurrer regarding the allegations against the supervisor resulted in plaintiff's counsel requesting an opportunity to amend the complaint without a ruling on the demurrer.

  • a personal injury matter in which plaintiff, a college football player, injured himself during football practice when he stepped in a gopher hole. We filed a motion for summary judgment, after which the matter was settled favorably.

  • a multi-million dollar construction management case in which a contractor sued Los Angeles Community College District for payment of alleged cost overruns on a school site construction project. We prosecuted the District's claims for liquidated damages and for violation of the False Claims Act (California Government Code sections 12650 et seq.). We were able to negotiate a favorable settlement for Los Angeles Community College District.

  • a case involving failure to procure proper insurance for the Los Angeles Community College District with detailed insurance issues.

Los Angeles Unified School District
  • a personal injury case involving an adult student who tripped over a nail protruding from the baseboard in a doorway in which our motion for summary judgment was successful and we are pursuing costs against plaintiff.

  • an assault and battery case in which a teacher claims she was assaulted by school police and suffered personal injuries in which we successfully defeated plaintiff's request for permission to file a late claim against the school district.

  • a personal injury case in which a substitute teacher threw a coin at a second grade girl, hitting her on the head, and allegedly causing physical and emotional injuries in which we were successful in settling the case for a minimal amount and obtaining financial contribution from the teacher.

  • a case in which a young girl tried to close a bathroom window at a school when the window fell and severed a portion of her finger, in which we successfully opposed plaintiff's petition to file a late claim, despite the severe injuries.

  • a federal civil rights case in which plaintiff, a high school senior, refused to relinquish her cell phone which was not allowed according to school rules. School officers were brought in to recover the cell phone, an altercation ensued in which plaintiff (5-10, 210 lbs.) kicked and scratched the officer, and plaintiff was ar6rested for disruption. A motion for summary judgment was decided in our client's favor.

  • a personal injury claim by a student that a teacher assaulted and battered him in the classroom in which discovery developed that plaintiff actually slammed his own face into his desk, causing his node to bleed. The case was settled for a minimal amount.

  • an alleged class action by African-American students who claimed physical and verbal assaults by Hispanic school police officers and improper random searches of students in which we successfully opposed class certification and were able to settle the matter for minimal amounts as to the two named plaintiffs.

  • a personal injury case in which plaintiff, a special needs student who suffers from cerebral palsy and severe neurodevelopmental delay (mental retardation) alleges he sustained a broken arm and shoulder dislocation when a school district employee transferred him from a wheelchair to a bed in which we settled for a minimal amount.

  • a personal injury case in which plaintiff's classmate poked him in the eye with a pencil and alleged the school district failed to supervise the classmate which we were able to settle to our client's satisfaction after a mediation.

  • a personal injury case in which plaintiff, a second grade girl, fell when she was running to the bathroom and lacerated her knee at the threshhold of the bathroom door with an allegation of premises liability and negligent care by the school nurse. We filed a motion for summary judgment and received a defense arbitration award while the motion was pending. Following the defense award, plaintiff dismissed the case in exchange for a waiver of costs prior to the hearing on the motion for summary judgment.

  • a case in which plaintiff, a high school sophomore, severed the tips of two fingers when using a jointer in wood shop which we were able to settle for a minimal amount following plaintiff's deposition.

  • a case in which plaintiff was chased and beaten by alleged gang members on school premises after school hours in which we developed evidence that the beating did not occur and were able to settle the case for a minimal amount.

  • a personal injury case in which plaintiff alleged that he sustained injury to his ankle when he backed up during a parade on school premises and fell over an embankment.

  • a case in which plaintiff claimed he was injured by a fellow student during football practice and alleged that LAUSD failed to exercise proper control and supervision over the athletes. We filed a motion for summary judgment, after which the case was settled for a waiver of costs.

  • a case in which the plaintiff , working for a subcontractor at an elementary after school hours, claims he slipped and fell on a liquid on the floor sustaining severe personal injuries and had been unable to work since the accident. The case was settled for a waiver of costs.

  • a major injury alleged by plaintiff, a 14 year old girl who was struck in a crosswalk walking home from school, and her brother who witnessed the accident. Plaintiff girl, a quadrapelegic on a respirator as a result of the accident, alleged the district was negligent in its supervision of students. Multimillion dollar demand was made. Our Motion for Summary Judgment as to the school district was granted.

  • a case involving an 80-year old pedestrian, struck in a crosswalk by our driver, resulting in major injuries.

  • a sexual harassment and wrongful termination case in which we won summary adjudication of the sexual harassment cause of action and then were able to negotiate a nuisance value settlement.

  • a case in which plaintiff, a 17-year old student with cerebral palsy and severe neurodevelopmental delay, alleged he sustained a broken arm and shoulder dislocation when an LAUSD employee (trainee) transferred him from a wheelchair to a bed. We settled the case for a favorable amount.

  • a case in which the plaintiff complained that two insect bites developed into severe injuries and the need for surgery. The case was dismissed.

  • a matter in which the plaintiff slipped and fell on a sidewalk. We were able to extricate LAUSD for a waiver of costs.

  • a school bus versus automobile accident in which both drivers are alleging personal injuries and we have cross-complained against the automobile driver for over $4000 in property damage to the bus. We settled the matter at mediation for a minimal amount and were reimbursed for our property damage claim by the other driver.

  • a case in which a student, allegedly hit his head while waiting for PE class to begin, claimed he was then refused assistance by the school nurse. The case was settled for a minimal amount.
California State University

We defended a California state university in a lawsuit involving severe personal injury involving high voltage electrical injury. In addition, we have defended claims alleging toxic and chemically contaminated real property.

Major Private University

We defended a Private University in a case of alleged ADA violations involving a wheel-chair-bound plaintiff who was injured on campus. Plaintiff suffered from decubitus ulcers which were aggravated by an extended hospital stay following his fall at on campus. The case was resolved at a mediation.

Counties of Los Angeles and Ventura

We have defended a County in a case involving the responsibility of the County in placing children in foster homes, civil rights litigation. We also defended a County in a case involving a plaintiff who had been sentenced to spend time in a county youth detention facility who was allegedly "lost in the shuffle" and as a result served approximately 280 days beyond his sentence.

We have defended the County of Los Angeles in several cases arising out of public improvement contracts, including actions for personal injuries and for property damages based upon causes of action for negligence, alleged dangerous conditions of public property, nuisance, and inverse condemnation.