Mar 132014

gavelAt the next closed-session meeting of the City Council, the Council will be briefed on a number of lawsuits against the City making their way through the court system.  While they are not the totality of the lawsuits affecting the City, it’s useful for citizens to know what their City’s legal team is spending taxpayer money fighting.

Police Abuse Lawsuits

Parker vs. City of San Leandro & San Leandro Police Department
Police Victimizes Crime Victim

A man was a victim of road rage, so he went home and called the SLPD. When the police came, they found him on his porch talking to a friend.  So what did the Police officer do? Take a report, you say? Why no, of course, not, this is San Leandro.  Instead Police officer Ann O’Callaghan parked across the street, drew her gun, called the plaintiff over and handcuffed and searched him.  Only then he was allowed to file a report. Also involved in this case, was SLPD officer John Kritikos.

The City’s defense? A bunch of affirmative defenses, including “assumption of risk”.  Apparently, if you call the Police to report a crime against you, you consent to being handcuffed and manhandled.

slpdbadgeUnfortunately, there have been several incidents like this one, where a witness or victim calls the Police, and they end up becoming the victims of police abuse.  I reported on a similar case last year, and two more people reported similar experiences on my Facebook page.

McDougall v. Rite Aid Corp., City of San Leandro
Women spent night in jail after trying to get a prescription filled

This is a lawsuit against Rite Aid on McArthur by a couple of patients who brought a prescription for a controlled substance. For whatever reason, the pharmacists thought it was fake or stolen and they called the police. The patients were arrested, spent the night in jail, had to post bail and one even lost her permit to drive an ambulance. It turned out, however, that the prescription was real. The plaintiffs are suing Rite Aid and SLPD, the latter for false arrest.

So, what can we learn from this? First, use the Rite Aid pharmacy at your own risk. Seriously, prescriptions usually come with the Doctor’s telephone number. If the pharmacist suspected something was wrong, they could have called the doctor. Instead, they subjected two innocent women to jail and more due to their own incompetence and even malice. I don’t shop there often, but now I’m just going to avoid it.

But SLPD is just as much to blame. They, too, could have called the prescribing doctor. If they couldn’t get a hold of him, they could have gotten the women’s information, and arrested them once they confirmed the prescription was false.  Instead, their defense is: the pharmacists told us that it was fake, and we believed them.  Ace investigators, there.

Lawrence Williams v. City of San Leandro
Police searches car without probable cause

Early in 2013, the plaintiff was driving near the border with Oakland when he was stopped by SLPD.  An officer told him he was stopped for “moving in his car”. The officers asked him to step out and asked him if he had any drugs or guns, the plaintiff said he didn’t.  Officers proceeded to search the car, even though they had no probable cause for doing so and the dispatcher told them that while the plaintiff was on probation, there was no search clause.  The SLPD officers took the plaintiff’s ID, and did not return it.

Fortunately for the City, the plaintiff has filed this pro se and doesn’t seem to know what he is doing.  I say fortunately, because the judge made it clear that the plaintiff would have to show that it was the City’s policy to violate people’s rights in this way, in order to prevail against the City itself.  A lawyer may very well be able to do so. AFter all, the SLPD itself has issued press release after press release that indicate that a car was stopped and searched with no probable cause.

Who knows, maybe a lawyer will read this and reach out to the plaintiff.

The case is 4:2013cv02302 filed in CA northern district court.

Clean The Drain! Lawsuit

Finch v. City of San Leandro

This case concerns a downhill storm drain that goes through the plaintiff’s property. The plaintiff says the City is responsible for maintaining it, but it hasn’t been doing so, so it gets plugged and the overflow from the drain flows into the plaintiff’s property.

It seems the city has two choices: it can clear the damn drain or it can engage in an expensive lawsuit to find out whether it has the legal obligation of clearing it or not. What has the city chosen to do? Fight it in court, of course.

This is the type of thing for which I think we require clear answers from our politicians.  I’ve asked Mayor Stephen Cassidy to tell us how much it would cost to keep that drain (or even all drains in public property) in San Leandro unplugged, and how much it has cost to fight this case in court for now over two years.  He responded that I should find the information myself – apparently, he doesn’t know or care to find out.

Slip-And-Fall Lawsuits

Two of the lawsuits concern falls due to badly maintained sidewalks. Alas, they both seem to be in private property.

Last year, the City settled a slip-and-fall lawsuit regarding a faulty sidewalk for $5K, but only after litigating it in court for over a year.  The legal costs are probably many times that of the settlement.

We Need Social Workers, Not Police Lawsuit

The last lawsuit the Council will consider, filed last December, is more interesting for its social aspects than its legal merit.   First of all it serves as a reminder that nobody should file a lawsuit without having someone who is able to read/write High-School level English, read it over. As it’s written, it’s pretty much incomprehensible.

But the documents filed with the lawsuit – which are confidential and shouldn’t have been entered into the record, and for that reason I’m not linking to the lawsuit -, also speak about the failure of our educational system to identify children with mental disabilities, and of our social welfare system to provide needed support to families with such children.

The case will be dismissed, most likely, the social problems remain.

Also in the Legal Pipeline

– A liability claim filed by Guy Dilling form the Santos Robinson Mortuary against the City, I’m filing a CPRA request to find out what it’s about.

– The Heron Bay HOA vs. City of San Leandro case has been taken under submission, and a decision is expected by late April.

Ilmberger VS City of San Leandro Apparently, in early 2013, the roots of a city-owned tree blocked the City-owned sewer line on Graff Ave., making the sewage from the plaintiff’s lateral line back up into their home.

– City apparently just won an appeal on a case where a paving company had sued it because it wasn’t awarded the contract .


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