$10.6 Million Was Total Tab to the County Even Though Suit Could Have Settled for $500,000 At Some Junctures.
In our December 19, 2010 post (which also references earlier posts), we reported on a very nice win by attorney Shawn McMillan and his legal team in a civil rights case brought by Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick against Orange County. We know that trial legal fees of $1.6 million were affirmed by our local appellate court and that about $1 million in appellate legal fees were approved by the trial judge subsequently. The County tried unsuccessfully to get U.S. Supreme Court review, which also added more legal fees to the dispute.
Andrew Galvin, in a February 14, 2012 article in The Orange County Register, reports that a recent audit revealed that the total cost to the County for this lawsuit was $10.6 million. However, the audit also showed that Mr. McMillan made offers to settle the case for $500,000 both before and during trial, but that the Board of Supervisors never heard of these offers. According to the article, by the time supervisors got wind of these offers, County was already “on the hook” for $4.9 million, plus fees and costs, after the jury trial win by Ms. Fogarty-Hardwick. This has led to Supervisor John Moorlach mulling whether there should be some settlement communication/risk management guidelines in place for these type of situations.
Incidentally, this case was one of the most expensive liability claims ever paid by the County, being the only one to exceed its $5 million self-insurance limit. Some of its outside insurers are balking at paying their alleged share of the tab, with supervisors recently voting to initiate arbitration and litigation against two of the carriers.