L.A. County's risk specialists reported some good news to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday: costs associated with litigation against the county were $89 million in 2012, a seven-year low. Read the report below.
About half of those costs stemmed from lawsuits and settlements involving the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Law enforcement "is a risky business," said Steven Estabrook, with L.A.'s county counsel office.
Most of the costs came from excessive force cases on the patrol side of the department, rather than lawsuits involving the jail.
Estabrook warned that litigation costs associated with the sheriff's department could rise in the coming fiscal year. The federal indictments of 18 sheriff's deputies on felony charges, plus the finding by a Blue Ribbon Commission of a culture of violence in L.A. County's jails could attract civil lawsuits, he said.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said she's glad to see litigation costs go down, though they're still too high.
"Every time we see these dollars going into liability, which is unpredictable at the time, it's almost seeing services walk away," Molina said, while adding that any entity the size of Los Angeles County will always incur liabilities.
Department heads all over the county are being encouraged to discuss what employees can do to avoid litigation. The county also has an evolving plan for each department on how to reduce such costs.