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Jury Awards No Damages to Injured Judge

February 26, 2008

The Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury has ruled against a federal judge who was seeking $21 million after alleging that he was severely injured when he fell from a malfunctioning escalator at an Encino shopping center.

U.S. District Judge George P. Schiavelli, 59, said he was riding the escalator at Encino Place shopping center in August 2005 when it stopped "suddenly and without warning," knocking him down the stairs and causing permanent injuries, according to court records.

The jury at the Van Nuys courthouse deliberated about two hours before announcing its decision, said attorney Russell S. Wollman, who represents the management company that operates the popular shopping center on Ventura Boulevard. "He got nothing," Wollman said Monday.

The plaintiff's lawyer, Browne Greene, said the jury ruled against Schiavelli not because of the merits of his case, but because of his position on the federal bench. "The bias against judges in today's world is just palpable," he said Monday evening.

As a result of his injuries, Schiavelli has had surgery to replace one knee and will have operations to replace the other knee and a hip, as well as to repair damage to his back and neck, Greene said.

"It's a horrific surgery," Greene said of the knee operation. "He's been off for five weeks, and he's going to be off for months."

Greene said the $21 million was to cover medical expenses and future economic losses, as well as compensate the judge for pain and suffering caused by the accident.

Greene said Schiavelli had four witnesses testify on his behalf. The attorney also said an employee from the management company testified that the firm had destroyed accident records after the judge filed his lawsuit in 2006.

An Encino resident, Schiavelli is a graduate of Stanford University and UCLA Law School. He was appointed by President Bush to the District Court in Los Angeles in 2004. He also served as a Superior Court judge after being appointed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in the mid-1990s.

After several years as a state judge, Schiavelli had to step down from the bench and practice law to help pay for his mother's medical expenses.

"She had Parkinson's disease," Greene said. "He had to take care of her."


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