Santa Monica is suing insurance companies over child abuse billing charges

The city’s non-life insurance companies paid no more than $ 100 million

From Dolores Quintana

Santa Monica is suing half a dozen insurance companies for allegedly failing to pay legal fees totaling over $ 100 million in lawsuits against the city that stem from one of the largest child abuse lawsuits in the country’s history against a city employee.

In a September 30 lawsuit alleging breach of contract by insurance companies, the city is demanding legal costs from companies related to settlements awarded to alleged sexual abuse victims whom the city sued. The victims said they were abused by former City employee Eric Uller while participating in the Santa Monica City Police Activities League (PAL) program when they were children in the 1980s and 1990s, where Uller frequently volunteers was.

A total of 87 cases of suspected abuse have been filed against the City of Santa Monica by former City employee Uller, who died of suicide three weeks after his arrest. He was an IT professional who had worked in systems analysis for the Santa Monica information technology division and was a frequent mentor in the PAL program.

Almost all of the alleged victims were Latino boys ages 12-15 from the Pico neighborhood. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Uller allegedly molested victims in his car, often on the pretext of taking them to his father’s doctor’s office for medical examinations.

The Times and Santa Monica Lookout reports said several former Santa Monica City officials told Los Angeles Sheriff’s Detectives investigating the case that they had reported Uller’s alleged abuse to their superiors. To date, the city-initiated independent investigation into these allegations of cover-up has not yielded any results.

Santa Monica City’s lawsuit against six insurance companies, Insurance Co. of the State of Pennsylvania, Insurance Co. of the West, Lexington Insurance Co., Axis Surplus Insurance Co., Arch Specialty Insurance Co., and TIG Insurance Co alleges: that “without the help of the defendants, the city has been wrongly forced, and continues to be, to spend over $ 100 million of its own much-needed resources on defending and settling claims.”

The city is suing insurance companies to reimburse Santa Monica for all victim compensation and associated costs that the city had to pay from its own coffers. In addition, the lawsuit asks the court to order insurance companies to pay damages sufficient to “deter similar bad faith behavior by the defendants in the future”.

The victims’ lawsuits have been running for several years, with a first settlement being reached in March 2020. The first settlement amount was $ 42.6 million, which went to about two dozen plaintiffs. A second settlement was approved by the Santa Monica City Council over a year later, in August 2021, with an additional 61 plaintiffs awarding $ 54.9 million. The city is required to transfer the funds to a qualified settlement fund administered by an impartial judge who then distributes the funds to each plaintiff as required by law.

David Ring, who represented the majority of plaintiffs, said the total payout of $ 97.5 million was likely the largest child molestation settlement in the country’s history against a city worker.

– Sam Catanzaro contributed to this article.

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