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More Sex Abuse Cases Against the City Filed as Deadline Looms

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By Jorge Casuso

December 20, 2022 -- The number of new sex abuse cases involving former City employee Eric Uller is growing as attorneys scramble to find more plaintiffs before the December 31 filing deadline.

More than 70 alleged victims have filed new claims against the City, which has already paid some $107 million in settlements, according to an attorney familiar with the filings.

The City has settled with nearly 90 plaintiffs who claimed they were sexually abused by Uller between approximately 1987 and 1999 when he was a Police Activities League (PAL) volunteer.

"My firm represents one of his victims," attorney Catherine Lerer wrote in an email to the Lookout. "We are about to file suit.

"I fear that there are many more victims out there who have no idea that they still have time to make a claim, or that the window to file slams shut on 12/31/22," Lerer wrote.

Lerer, whose firm McGee Lerer & Associates has taken out ads seeking Uller victims, said she has added three plaintiffs since her email was sent nine days ago.

"I assume other law firms are also getting contacted in the final days by victims," said Lerer, who said one firm is advertising on radio. "They know the clock is ticking down."

City officials have refused to say how many total new cases have been filed or how many plaintiffs are involved, citing ongoing litigation.

They also have refused to say how much of the settlement amounts paid to date have been covered by insurance and how much has come from City funds?

Also unanswered is whether the settlement payments have increased the City's insurance costs and, if so, by how much.

"The total amount paid out to date is $107.3 million," City spokesperson Constance Farrell said in response to questions emailed by The Lookout.

"Given that this is active litigation, I’m unable to respond to your other questions," she wrote.

So far, none of the cases has gone to trail in what is one of the largest sex abuse settlements by a city in the nation's history. And the startling charges that have gripped Santa Monica since October 2018 have been largely ignored by the national press.

The first settlement to 26 plaintiffs totaling $42.5 million was approved by the City Council on March 10, 2020 ("Santa Monica to Pay $42.6 Million to Alleged Victims of Sexual Abuse," March 10, 2020).

Nearly a year-and a-half later, the Council approved a $54.9 million settlement to 61 additional plaintiffs ("Council Votes to Pay Alleged Child Molestation Victims Another $54.9 Million," August 25, 2021).

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

Uller -- a systems analyst for the Information Services Department who worked in the Public Safety building -- committed suicide three weeks after he was arrested by LA County Sheriffs ("Uller Found Dead in Apparent Suicide," November 15, 2018).

Shortly after the arrest, the City hired Praesidium, Inc., a nationally recognized consultant in child abuse prevention.

It also launched an independent investigation of allegations that City officials previously knew, or should have known, of Uller’s alleged criminal conduct.

No findings have been released to date.

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