LAPD retaliated against police detective after medical leave. $2.1 million. Los Angeles County.


Supervisory police detective goes on leave for work-related back injury, is later transferred to different job. Claims discrimination and retaliation.

The Case

  • Case Name: Maria Elena Montoya v. City of Los Angeles
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC 504572
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, April 05, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, March 29, 2013
  • Type of Case: Employment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Rita Miller
  • Plaintiffs:
    Maria Elena Montoya
  • Defendants:
    City of Los Angeles
    The Los Angeles Police Department
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $2,101,969 for plaintiff Montoya on the FEHA retaliation claim; defense verdict on the disability discrimination claim.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past economic loss: $187,463

    Future economic loss: $1,414,506

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past non-economic loss: $250,000

    Future non-economic loss: $250,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 17 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 9-3 for Montoya on retaliation; 9-3 for City on disability discrimination.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff will seek attorney fees. The City is considering post-trial motions and appeal.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP by Matthew McNicholas, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Office of the City Attorney by Casey T. Shim and Lisa S. Caforio, Los Angeles. (For City of Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Police Department.)

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Marianne Inouye, M.B.A., economics, San Marino.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff Maria Montoya worked for the Los Angeles Police Department. In November 2011, she was a Detective III in Newton Division and she suffered a recurrence of a work-related back injury while on vacation.

    She saw a doctor on Nov. 28, 2011 and called the division and sent documentation. On Dec. 7, 2011, the Detective Commanding Officer, a Lieutenant II, called to see where Montoya was because no one had notified that lieutenant. Plaintiff was told that the lieutenant had been notified but Montoya thought the lieutenant sounded upset. Plaintiff Montoya remained off work from Nov. 28, 2011 until Jan.17, 2012 and returned with light-duty restrictions.

    On Jan. 18, 2012, the Detective Commanding Officer told plaintiff that she was being moved to the Burglary and Theft Table from the Sex and Juvenile Crimes Table, which she had supervised since 2009. Plaintiff was not happy about the move and called her union to complain and later complained to the Area Commanding Officer.

    On Jan. 19, 2012, Montoya was transported to the hospital for an apparent heart attack, later diagnosed as a severe panic attack, which she claimed resulted from stress due to her lieutenant's actions.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the City of Los Angeles discriminated against plaintiff in relation to her work disability and retaliated against her after she complained about being transferred to another section of her division.

    Further, that the lieutenant made incorrect statements in the initial paperwork for plaintiff's on-duty hospitalization, which she claimed delayed Workers' Compensation benefits.

    On Jan. 26, 2012, plaintiff made a formal complaint against her lieutenant. On Feb. 13, 2012 plaintiff's psychiatrist placed her off work, totally temporarily disabled from a psychiatric point of view, and the psychiatrist offered "no comment" when contacted by LAPD.

    LAPD thereafter suspended plaintiff's peace officer powers and took back the City-owned weapon and badge. In November 2012 Montoya was informed the complaint against her lieutenant was unfounded.

    Plaintiff did not return to work and received a disability pension from the City on Feb. 19, 2016, effective Oct. 15, 2015. 

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That  the Newton Division Sick and Injured on Duty Coordinator, who normally kept track of absent officers, was absent during December 2011 and no new Sick and IOD coordinator was appointed until February 2012, prompting the lieutenant's December 2011 call.

    The City contended that it had legitimate, non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory reasons for the actions that it took and that its actions were not adverse. The move between tables was necessary to address a crime trend. Detectives III are administrators and are expected to be able to supervise any divisional detective table, and there was no change in Montoya's division of assignment, pay, or benefit.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress. Plaintiff sought and received psychiatric treatment and psychological counseling for emotional distress related to claimed retaliation.