A judge has denied a bid by a homeless man who was seriously injured in a traffic accident while being transported back to jail on a Sheriff’s Department bus in 2019 to file a late claim against Los Angeles County after his effort was previously rejected by the Board of Supervisors.
Lennard James Nolan’s Los Angeles Superior Court petition was filed last Oct. 21 and sought an exemption from the statute of limitations requiring that he bring such a suit within six months of the incident. Ruling Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant denied Nolan’s request, but the court minute order did not state the judge’s reason for his decision.
In their court papers, lawyers for the County Counsel’s Office urged the judge to deny the petition.
“(Nolan) failed to meet his burden to establish that he sought counsel or diligently pursued his claim during the claims presentation period, or that he was ignorant of the time limitation on presentation of claims against public entities,” lawyers for the County Counsel’s Office stated in their court papers.
Nolan was on an LASD bus on Oct. 18, 2019, and was being taken back to the Los Angeles County jail after his arraignment for a non-violent offense when the bus driver hit the vehicle in front, causing the plaintiff to be thrown from his seat, the petition stated.
Nolan was taken to the hospital by ambulance and he suffered extensive injuries, including a torn ACL, which requires reconstructive surgery, according to the petition. However, he has been unable to have the surgery due to his homelessness, the petition states.
Nolan had an apartment when he was released from jail last Nov. 1, but he could not enter because the locks were changed and he later learned everything inside was stolen, the petition states. He was forced back onto the streets, where he has been for parts of the last 12 years, according to his petition.
Nolan called numerous attorneys asking for legal advice, but they declined to take him as a client when they learned he was homeless and none told him he had six months to file a government claim against the county, the petition stated. A claim is often a forerunner of a lawsuit.
“I was never notified by any of the lawyers that I spoke with that there was a six-month deadline to file a government claim,” Nolan said in a sworn declaration. “I feel they did not believe me or take me seriously. No one would ever call me back.”
Nolan said he tried his best to get representation.
“Under the circumstances I was in, I tried my best to obtain legal counsel at that time, but did not do so successfully given my homelessness, the severity of my injuries, my lack of adequate resources, and the fact that none of the attorneys I reached out to would get back to me,” Nolan says. ” Additionally, when the pandemic hit, I was focused on survival and doing my best to get adequate housing. It was a lot to handle.”
Nolan said he finally found a lawyer to take his case, Nathan H. Soleimani, last Aug. 29 and that he was immediately told about the six-month deadline to file a government claim.
“I do not believe that the county of Los Angeles will be prejudiced by my late claim and I believe they have already been made aware of this situation given that there were five or more individuals who were also injured during my accident,” according to Nolan, who says he has lived in his car since November 2019.
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