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City Has Spent More than $1.7 Million in Legal Fees in Uller Sex Abuse Cases

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By Jorge Casuso

April 11, 2023 -- The City has paid more than $1.7 million in legal fees to outside attorneys for services related to sexual abuse cases involving former City employee Eric Uller, a public records request revealed Tuesday.

The legal fees do not include the time or money spent by the City Attorney's office since the first cases were filed some three years ago, according to the City's response to the Public Records Act Request filed by Santa Monica resident Olga Zurawska on March 17.

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The legal fees and internal work performed by staff has resulted in a total of $107,325,000 paid to settle the cases filed by 105 plaintiffs who allege they were sexually abused by Uller as children and teens.

Additional claims, which could number more than 100, have been filed since the last settlements were paid in December 2021.

To date, a total of $1,720,407.90 in legal fees has been "paid to the outside counsel that have handled or are handling" the cases filed against the City and its Police Activities League, where Uller was a volunteer between the late 1980s and early 2000s.

Most of the fees -- $1,465,227.97 -- have been paid to Andrade Gonzalez LLP, which according to its website, is "a litigation boutique firm" started in Los Angeles 10 years ago.

The firm's lawyers "have broad experience representing corporate, governmental, and individual policyholders in complex coverage disputes with their insurance carriers," according to the site.

The City is currently suing six of its insurers "alleging breach of contract and bad faith" in an effort to recoup "at least some and potentially a substantial portion of the settlement funds," according to City documents.

Of the total $107,325,000 paid to settle the cases, only $8,929,768 has been covered by insurance, according to City financial documents ("City Seeks to Recoup Nearly $100 Million in Sex Abuse Settlement Costs," January 9, 2023).

The City also has paid $182,310.06 in legal fees to Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, "a full-service law firm with over 200 attorneys in nine offices throughout California," according to its website.

The firm specializes in "labor and employment law, education law, cities and counties representation, and litigation."

Another $72,870.01 has been paid to O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, an "800-lawyer firm" founded in Los Angeles in 1885 that has "18 offices in the world’s financial and political centers," according to its website.

Zurawska's public information request also asked for "the number of hours and/or the amount of money the City Attorney's Office has spent on the legal work performed."

"Although the City has worked on the subject cases internally, the City does not separately track time spent on individual cases or money spent as the City’s Attorneys are paid by an annual salary," Public Records Coordinator Jamie Wand wrote in the City's response.

The Public Records Act, Wand said, also "does not require that the City answer questions, perform research, or create new records or custom reports in a format that the City does not use."

"While public agencies must provide access to their existing records, they are not required to compile information to create records that do not currently exist," Wand wrote.

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