Carson City absorbs unusual amount of court settlements |

Carson City absorbs unusual amount of court settlements

Jill Lufrano

Carson City is preparing to write a hefty check this week to pay off another court settlement as legal costs continue to pummel the city this year.

In all, the city has paid at least $1.15 million in the past two years to fight lawsuits or pay out settlements. The latest judgment will cost the city $313,500 after a jury ordered the city to pay American General Development a balance owed on construction of the aquatic center.

A bundle of legal cases the city has struggled with for the past several years were resolved since June 2003. Some expenses were paid from the general fund, while others were covered by the city’s insurance and a claims fund, said Finance Director Tom Minton. The claims fund balance remains at $300,000.

“It’s actually quite good for an organization of this size,” Minton said. “The city is a $100 million enterprise with 600-plus employees.”

City finance personnel were unable to gather complete legal cost estimates, as claims were paid from different sources. The American General claim, for instance, will be paid from the quality of life fund, a voter-approved fund to pay for parks and open-space projects.

Since August 2002, the city has paid attorney Thomas Hall $51,000 for legal assistance with the street-abandonment case brought by local casino owners seeking to recoup money paid for city streets. A judge ruled early this year in favor of Capital City Entertainment in the amount of $125,000 plus interest, a payment the city has yet to make.

The battle against the Bureau of Land Management and Douglas County to stop auto sales from relocating across county lines cost the city $397,000, paid from the general fund, in legal fees. The city hired Washington, D.C., law firm Latham & Watkins and resolved the case in December after auto dealers agreed to work with the city on developing an auto mall in Carson.

Other major cases included an October judgment, obligating the city to pay $104,000 to settle damages claimed in connection with a civil-rights lawsuit filed by motorcycle club members wearing swastikas who were barred from entering the city’s courthouse in 2001.

The city also paid $58,000 in November to Lake Tahoe couple Dan and Madlyn Denny for injuries they received after their sedan was struck by a city fire department emergency vehicle in 2000. Filiberto Lepe of Carson City man was paid $40,000 in June 2003, after a judge awarded him the money following a 1999 arrest for obstructing a peace officer. He was acquitted.

Legal costs:

— $220,000 in general legal costs and smaller claims paid from the Claims Fund this year.

— $397,000 to Washington, D.C., law firm Latham & Watkins.

— $313,350 to American General Development following Aquatic Center judgment.

— $104,000 to motorcycle club for courthouse civil-rights case.

— $58,000 to Dan and Madlyn Denny.

— $40,000 for Filiberto Lepe following a 1999 arrest for obstructing a peace officer. He was acquitted.

Total: $1,132,350

Contact Jill Lufrano at or 881-1217.