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City faces five injury lawsuits

Year's amount doubled in just one month for various types of allegations.

September 02, 2010|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — There were five personal injury lawsuits filed against Costa Mesa in August, doubling the year's total in a single month, with allegations ranging from excessive force by police to negligence in filling a pothole at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

The city is involved in lawsuits throughout the year, from citizens appealing parking tickets to the city attorney's office seeking court orders to protect personnel information. But as court records show, there was an unusual amount of litigation filed against the city in August compared with all of last year.

There were five personal injury, property damage or wrongful death lawsuits filed against the city in all of 2009. Between January and July of this year, five such suits were filed.

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City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow did not return calls seeking comment on Thursday. All the lawsuits seek unlimited damages, or damages totaling more than $25,000.

In a lawsuit filed Aug. 20, Viana Laituri claims that up to seven Costa Mesa police officers illegally entered her home Aug. 22, 2009, to arrest her, and then roughed her up in the process.

She said she suffered bruised arms, wrists and was left with aches in her face and jaw. She was charged with resisting arrest by prosecutors, but the charges were thrown out three months later. Another person involved in that case was arrested on suspicion of petty theft. Charges against that person were also dropped.

A lawsuit filed Aug. 2 followed a claim that city officials rejected earlier this year. Kaytlin Obbards, 18, originally sought $42,000 in her claim that a faulty traffic signal caused her to get hit by a car. In her suit, she echoes the allegations and says the signal at Fairview Road and Fair Drive turned from green to red too quickly for her to cross.

The city also faces a lawsuit because of a hole on the fairgrounds' property. Orange County Marketplace shopper Kimberly Olson is suing for unlimited damages, claiming her foot got caught in a hole there, forcing her to fall and injure it. Olson is suing for property damage, wage loss, medical expenses and a loss of earnings. She did not detail her injuries in the suit.

It was unclear Thursday night why she sued the city, as the fairgrounds are on state property.

In two traffic-related suits, the city is being sued after one family claims they got into a car accident with a Costa Mesa police officer in March of last year. In the second suit, the plaintiff, Keenan Ruppel, is suing the city and Bethel Towers, claiming that they were involved in a crash because of the business' untrimmed hedges and bushes.

The city has yet to respond to any of the suits, according to court filings.

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