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Council to Take Up Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Filed By Another 131 Plaintiffs

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By Jorge Casuso

April 20, 2023 -- The City Council on Tuesday will take up a flood of lawsuits filed by 131 plaintiffs who claim former City employee Eric Uller sexually abused them when they were children and teens more than 20 years ago.

The cases were filed before a December 31 filing deadline and bring to 236 the total number of plaintiffs who have sued the City and its Police Activities League (PAL), where Uller was a volunteer between approximately 1987 and 1999.

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So far, the City has paid a total of $107,325,000 to settle the cases filed by 105 plaintiffs, making it one of the largest settlements by a a city in the nation's history.

The payments could soon swell. According to financial statements from the City dated February 23, 2023, the City has been holding mediation with plaintiffs to settle the final cases.

"A global mediation took place on November 14, 2022 and there is another pending mediation for 131 plaintiffs that has yet to occur," the statements said. "No settlement in these cases have been reached as of the date of these financial statements."

Sexual Abuse Cases on Council Agenda

The first lawsuits against the City were filed in March, 2019, less than five months after Uller was arrested by LA County Sheriffs for lewd acts with a minor ("Santa Monica City Employee Arrested for Lewd Acts with a Minor," October 18, 2018).

On November 15, 2018, days after pleading not guilty and bailing out of custody, Uller was found dead of an apparent suicide on the morning of his next scheduled court appearance.

The first settlements totaling $42.6 million were reached with 24 plaintiffs in March 2020. All but one -- a young girl allegedly abused by a probationer performing community service at PAL -- involved Uller ("Santa Monica to Pay $42.6 Million to Alleged Victims of Sexual Abuse," March 10, 2020).

After the original settlements, an additional 20 plaintiffs sued the City and PAL and were paid a total of $9,825,000, according to the financial statements.

In December 2021, the City paid another $54.9 million to an additional 61 claimants ("Council Votes to Pay Alleged Child Molestation Victims Another $54.9 Million," August 25, 2021).

Of the $107,325,000 paid to settle the cases filed by the 105 plaintiffs, only $8,929,768 has been covered by insurance, according to the City's financial statements ("City Seeks to Recoup Nearly $100 Million Settlement Bill," December 20, 2022).

To recoup "at least some and potentially a substantial portion of the settlement funds," the City has filed lawsuits against six of its insurers "alleging breach of contract and bad faith," according to the statements.

Most of Uller's alleged victims were Latino boys between the ages of 12 and 15 from the Pico Neighborhood, according to attorney Dave Ring, who represented most of the plaintiffs in the second settlement. The youngest was eight.

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