LAPD Employee Receives $1 Million Settlement for Workplace Retaliation

Women make up 18.9% of the Los Angeles police force

Women make up 18.9% of the Los Angeles police force

A Los Angeles Superior Court plaintiff received a $1 million settlement for her lawsuit against the city for discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Plaintiff Danielle Wells, a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) employee, filed a government tort claim and eventually a lawsuit against the City for serious violations of California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and of Labor Code § 1102.5.

Repeated Mistreatment

Wells began working for the LAPD in 1995. After several years and a promotion to Sergeant, she experienced medical complications related to her pregnancy in 2009.  Wells’s Area Commanding Officer, Captain III William Hayes, actually complained that Wells would be off “IOD” (Injured on Duty) due to her medical complications. LAPD Command Staff violated company policy by demanding Wells return her gun and badge while she remained on maternity leave.

When Wells returned to work on light duty status (with some medical restrictions), Captain Wall refused to let her work until her medical restrictions were completely lifted. After Wells returned to work, she suffered a serious knee injury, which eventually led to surgery. An investigation was launched by the LAPD into Wells’s “long history of going IOD,” and the police department continued to prohibit Wells from returning to work until she was again capable of a full duty workload.

When the LAPD ordered Wells to return to work with restrictions, her immediate supervisors continued to violate her work restrictions.  At one point, Area Commanding Officer Captain Nancy Lauer ordered Sergeant Catherine Plows to visit Wells’s physician’s office in gun, badge and uniform. Plows was ordered to intimidate and influence Wells’s doctor into lifting some of his medical work restrictions Wells practice to prevent further injury to her knee. When Wells’s doctor refused to change her work restrictions, Captain Lauer called the doctor’s medical office and threatened to report him to the California Medical Board.

Justice for Wells

Wells’s attorneys’ Matthew S. McNicholas is a member of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Attorneys. McNicholas is a partner with McNicholas & McNicholas and worked with fellow attorney Douglas Winter on the case. McNicholas has received countless multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for plaintiffs, including practice areas ranging from mass torts litigation to employment litigation.

“Whistleblowers” are people who speak out about what their employers are doing by complaining to someone at their company.  The statute Wells used to sue the city of Los Angeles, California Labor Code section 1102.5, is generally known as the “whistleblower law.” Section 1102.5 protects workers who report illegal conduct. In late 2013, Section 1102.5 was amended in several ways. Each amendment expanded the protections available to people who complain about conduct in their workplace.

Employees who complain of what they believe to be illegal conduct need not be right when they make their complaint. FEHA regulations and the Labor Code exist to encourage employees to come forward with their genuine employment complaints, so an employee need only have a “reasonable belief” that the employment conduct at issue is illegal.  Under Section 1102.5, it technically did not matter whether Wells actually prevailed on her complaint against the LAPD. It only matters that the employment complaint is made in good faith, and Wells sincerely believed the LAPD’s actions were illegal.

The case is Wells v. City of Los Angeles, Case Number BC478742 in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

$50 Million Wrongful Birth Verdict Upheld in Washington


The Washington State Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a $50 million wrongful birth verdict in favor of a King County couple whose son was born with severe birth defects. The appellate court found the couple’s son’s chromosomal problem should have been spotted by genetic testing the couple specifically asked Laboratory Corporation of America (“LabCorp”) to perform.

Shocked Parents

While still pregnant with their son, Oliver, Rhea and Brock Wuth worried he might be afflicted by a rare genetic abnormality Brock carried. The Wuths requested prenatal tests conducted by LabCorp for Valley Medical Center, all of which came back clear because of errors by staff of both organizations.

Prior to the pregnancy, the Wuths were told that Brock had a 50 percent chance of passing on a chromosomal genetic problem to his child. Additionally, the Wuths were warned that such a pregnancy would probably end in a miscarriage, and perhaps even harm wife and mother Rhea Wuth. When the Wuths conceived, they knew the odds of having an affected child were substantial, so they asked their healthcare provider to check.

The Wuths decided they did not wish to bring a severely disabled child into the world and were prepared to terminate a pregnancy if the child tested positive for the chromosomal abnormality. LabCorp and Valley Medical Center, however, took that choice away from them.

After the Wuths got the test results back, they finally allowed themselves to get excited about the baby. Brock Wuth explained at trial that he and his wife “felt like, ‘Yay! We made it this time . . . We are going to have a healthy baby.’ And then when he was born, it was clear to me that he wasn’t right.”

When Oliver Wuth arrived in 2008, his body was disproportionate and did not function sensibly. His fingers were long, but his hands and feet were tiny. Oliver’s head was bent and turned, and his leg muscles were tight and unable to straighten. The Wuths described their newborn son as “vacant” and “broken.”

Four years later, at the time of trial, Oliver had just learned to walk . . . but running and climbing stairs remained impossible. His brain was underdeveloped and disproportionately small, and Oliver’s language consisted of a few dozen words understood only by those closest to him. He will require a lifetime of demanding care for his chromosomal condition.

Business of Medicine

The error occurred because a LabCorp staff member failed to get the appropriately detailed Wuth medical history documentation. Additionally, the LabCorp employee failed to ask Valley Medical for further necessary information. In short, LabCorp did not get crucial documentation, and lab staff failed to notice its absence. Notably, the employee was a trainee who left the lab just three days after reviewing the test results at issue.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Todd Gardner believes Valley Medical created an opportunity for error by understaffing its genetic counseling clinic. Garnder argued that both institutions were more concerned with maximizing revenue instead of ensuring their patients were being cared for properly. “It was a complete failure of the checks and balances you’re supposed to have in medicine, and a betrayal of the faith my clients placed in them,” Gardner said. “You cannot let the business of medicine get in the way of the practice of medicine.”

Valley Medical and LabCorp urged the three-judge panel to find the jury award excessive and shocking to the conscience, but the panel declined. The two defendants are required to pay half of the total judgment.

The case is Wuth v. LabCorp and Valley Medical Center in Division One of the Court of Appeals for the State of Washington, Case No. 71497-0-I and can be found here.

Divorce Due to Adderall; June 17, 2013

“I was divorced and lost everything because of Adderall,” says Christie, who was wrongly diagnosed with ADHD and regretfully wound up having a “manic episode,” one of Adderall side effects.

Christie, 37 years old and a registered nurse, believes that her ex-husband, family and friends would be more understanding if they knew about the effects of Adderall and intends to let them know about the dangers of Adderall. She might also want to add her prescribing doctor to that list.

“My doctor thought I had ADHD because I was spaced out and fatigued during a check-up at her office four years ago so she prescribed Adderall,” Christie explains. “The drug worked; I started feeling like I was cured from the fatigue. However, I felt too good: My judgment was so skewed – I believed that I would not suffer any consequences from my actions.”

Christie was later told by her psychiatrist that she was experiencing full-blown mania, something that she had never before experienced.

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