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San Gabriel Valley Digest

El Monte : Punitive Damage Issue Ends

February 13, 1986

A three-year legal battle against the city that led to a change in state law governing cities' payment of punitive damages in suits against on-duty employees has ended in victory for the city.

Attorney Hugh Manes said this week that he will not pursue a state appellate court ruling upholding El Monte's payment of $2,000 in punitive damages on behalf of two police officers accused of using excessive force in a 1979 incident outside a local nightclub.

Manes represented Bertha Guerrero, a legal secretary from El Monte, who filed a suit in 1983 challenging the legality of the city's payment of punitive damages for the policemen.

Her suit stemmed from a 1981 jury award of $1,000 in punitive damages against officers Randolph Lovelace and Henry August for using excessive force against Donald Ray Stephens during the investigation of a fight outside the Nashville West nightclub. The officers also were found liable for $2,700 in general damages, which was paid by the city, but not challenged by Guerrero.

The state's 2nd District Court of Appeal had upheld a Superior Court ruling in favor of the city and last week rejected Manes' petition for a rehearing.

Manes said he decided not to appeal the decision because a state law growing out of the El Monte case went into effect Jan. 1 giving cities the right to pay punitive damages for employees if it is found that the employees acted in good faith during the performance of their duties.

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