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October 8, 2013

Modesto paid out $65,000 in third-quarter claims

Modesto paid out more than $65,000 over the past three months to settle claims and lawsuits filed against it by businesses and residents. The city has paid out more than $310,000 this year.

Modesto paid out more than $65,000 over the past three months to settle claims and lawsuits filed against it by businesses and residents for such mishaps as limbs from city trees falling on parked cars and a police officer rear-ending a car stopped at an intersection.

The largest payouts were $22,763.67 to Olam Spices and Vegetables to settle the claim it filed against Modesto after a city water main burst and flooded the East Whitmore Avenue business and $19,000 to Sintex Security Systems to settle the lawsuit it filed against Modesto and a city contractor over a payment dispute.

The city provided the payout information for the third quarter – July 1 through Sept. 30 – in response to a California Public Records Act request filed by The Bee, asking for all third-quarter settlements of claims, lawsuits, demand letters and other actions against the city.

Modesto has paid out $310,158.35 to settle claims, lawsuits and other actions filed against it during the first nine months of this year. But more than $246,000 of the payouts went to settle five claims and lawsuits. In all, the city has settled 42 claims and lawsuits this year.

“That’s an average, good number,” Risk Manager Mary Akin said about this year’s payouts.

Akin said Modesto is responsible for paying up to $1 million for each claim, lawsuit and other action it settles. She said the city belongs to a risk pool and has commercial insurance for amounts higher than $1 million.

Akin said about 250 claims are filed against the city annually. She said the city determines that it is at fault 10 percent to 20 percent of the time and makes a payout to the injured person or business. Most of the claims are for people who trip and fall on uneven pavement or for city trees and limbs falling on cars and homes.

Of the 17 payouts the city made in the third quarter, one was for $6,585.62 and another for $4,067.10 for tree limbs falling onto parked cars. The payouts included $734.82 to a Modesto woman who was stopped at an intersection when a police officer rear-ended her 2007 Chevrolet Impala, denting the bumper and chipping the paint.

The large payouts this year include $120,000 in the first quarter to a Modesto woman and her two adult daughters who sued the city after officers entered the woman’s home without a warrant, refused to leave and helped a repossession company take the woman’s car, which was parked in the garage.

The city also paid $80,000 in the first quarter to a husband and wife who were involved in a traffic accident with a police officer and $30,320.75 in the second quarter for a claim brought by a man and his auto insurance company against the city.

This year’s smaller payouts include $20 to a man to compensate him for police officers damaging his bicycle and 20 cents a jury awarded a woman who sued Modesto over an altercation with police officers in 2010. Akin said the city sent the woman a check for the 20 cents.

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