Santa Monica sues insurance companies for child abuse settlement costs

City says insurance companies paid no more than $100 million

By Dolores Quintana

Santa Monica is suing half a dozen insurance companies for alleged non-payment of legal fees totaling more than $100 million related to claims brought against the city, stemming from one of the largest pedophilia settlements in the state. history of the country against a municipal employee.

In a Sept. 30 lawsuit alleging breach of contract by the insurance companies, the City is seeking legal costs from the companies in connection with settlements awarded to alleged sexual abuse victims who sued the City. Victims claimed they were abused by former city employee Eric Uller while participating in the City of Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL) program as children in the 1980s and 1990s , where Uller was a frequent volunteer.

A total of 87 cases have been filed against the city of Santa Monica over alleged abuse by former city employee Uller, who died by suicide three weeks after his arrest. He had been an IT employee who worked in systems analysis for the Santa Monica Department of Information Technology and often volunteered as a mentor in the PAL program.

Almost all of the alleged victims were Latino boys between the ages of 12 and 15 from the Pico neighborhood. As reported by Los Angeles TimesUller allegedly assaulted victims in his car, often under the guise of taking them for medical checkups at his father’s doctor’s office.

the Times reports, as well as report of the santa monica To look for, states that several former City of Santa Monica employees told Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives investigating the case that they had reported Uller’s alleged abuse to their superiors. To date, no findings have been released by the City’s independent investigation into these cover-up allegations.

The City of Santa Monica’s lawsuit against the 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 “Left without the assistance of defendants, the city has been and continues to be wrongfully forced to spend more than $100 million of its own much-needed resources to defend itself and resolve claims.”

The city is suing to force the insurance companies to reimburse Santa Monica for all victim settlements and related expenses the city had to pay out of its own coffers. Additionally, the lawsuit asks the court to order the insurance companies to pay damages in an amount sufficient to “deter similar bad faith behavior by the defendants in the future.”

The victims’ lawsuits have been ongoing for a few years, with an initial settlement reached in March 2020. The first settlement amount was $42.6 million and was paid to approximately two dozen plaintiffs. A second settlement was approved by the Santa Monica City Council more than a year later in August 2021, awarding $54.9 million to 61 other plaintiffs. The city is required to remit the funds to a qualified settlement fund which is 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 payment of $97.5 million is likely the largest child sexual assault settlement in nationwide history against a city employee.

Sam Catanzaro contributed to this article.

Kristan F. Talley