Plaintiff claims negligence after deputy assisting her caused a fence plank to hit her in face. Defense verdict. San Diego County.


Deputy kicks in a fence to gain access to yard where woman said she was scared and needed help.

The Case

  • Case Name: Lisa Kelly v. County of San Diego et al.
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego Superior Court / 37-2022-00018907-CU-PO-NC
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, December 14, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, May 18, 2022
  • Type of Case: Negligence
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Earl H. Maas III
  • Plaintiffs:
    Lisa Kelly
  • Defendants:
    County of San Diego, Deputy James Steinmeyer
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 hour
  • Jury Polls: 9-3

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Jerry L. Steering by Jerry L. Steering, Newport Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    San Diego Office Of County Counsel by Alexa F. Katz and Sylvia S. Aceves, San Diego.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    John Shamoon, M.D., plastic surgery.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Mark Mofid, M.D., plastic surgery.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On August 23, 2019, San Diego County sheriff's deputies responded “Code 3” with their lights and sirens on to a domestic violence call in rural Escondido involving a known and violent perpetrator. Plaintiff was living in a trailer on a large rural property and the owner of the property was her close friend.

    The call came from a neighbor who believed there was ongoing domestic violence occurring when he called 911, and knowing plaintiff was living on the property, was concerned for her safety. When deputies arrived, they discovered plaintiff behind a fence that was locked from the outside. Plaintiff was unsure if the perpetrator and victim of the domestic violence were at the residence on the property but told deputies she was scared and was trying to assist them in opening the gate. Plaintiff had previously been assaulted by the perpetrator about a week prior.

    Deputy Steinmeyer arrived on scene a few minutes after the other deputies. He was also familiar with the perpetrator as he had been in a car pursuit with him a few weeks prior. Plaintiff was telling deputies that she was scared and was assisting deputies in trying to unlock the gate to the property, but they had been unsuccessful. Consequently, Deputy Steinmeyer decided to kick in the fence to allow plaintiff a way out and allow deputies to enter the property to investigate the domestic violence call. Before kicking the fence, Deputy Steinmeyer asked plaintiff if she was scared; she said “yes.” Deputy Steinmeyer then told plaintiff to stand back and kicked in two of the fence posts. Deputy Steinmeyer went to remove the post from the bottom cross beam, and when it did, the post cracked unexpectedly, slipped out of Deputy Steinmeyer’s hands, and struck plaintiff above her eye, causing her to bleed. After plaintiff was struck, she was treated by paramedics and went to the emergency room where she received stitches to her wound.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff claimed that Deputy Steinmeyer was negligent in kicking the fence and failing to find another entry to the property.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendants alleged that Deputy Steinmeyer was not negligent. Rather, he acted like a reasonably prudent law enforcement officer in similar emergency circumstances. Defendants’ expert stated that the scar could be treated with two treatments of micro-needling, costing approximately $700 dollars and did not believe that plaintiff had any nerve damage in her forehead. Although plaintiff testified that she received an injection from her expert, there was no evidence that she received any treatment for the injury other than what was provided in the emergency room.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff has two scars (10 and 15 mm, respectively) near her right eyebrow. She also alleged garden-variety emotional distress as a result of these scars. To alleviate the scarring, plaintiff’s expert claimed that she would need approximately $48,000 dollars in various plastic surgery treatments including a scar revision with a fat transfer ($20,000), silicon sheeting ($2,000), 10 years of neurotoxin (Botox) treatment ($20,000), and four rounds of laser treatments ($6,000). He also opined that plaintiff has numbness on the right side of her forehead near her eyebrow.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $1,200
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $48,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: None
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: None

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant §998 Offer: $52,500 before trial.