Mon12222014

News

Settlement ends town's role in Westwind lawsuit

Los Altos Hills agreed to a $75,000 settlement this month to resolve a lawsuit filed against the town and Friends of Westwind by two former employees at Westwind Barn.

In the civil complaint, filed last September, former ranch hands Ignacio Carranza and Gregorio Rodriguez sought more than $500,000 in back wages for hours of allegedly unpaid overtime. Carranza and Rodriguez initially included former Friends President Sharon O'Malley, but later dropped her from the suit.

Carranza and Rodriguez's working conditions at the barn where they lived first came to public attention in February 2006, when the town closed their living quarters based on health and safety hazards. Carranza was living with his wife and three children in two unventilated rooms at the barn.

In the agreement announced June 14, the town was dismissed from the lawsuit with prejudice, in a "no fault" settlement in which Los Altos Hills admitted no liability or wrongdoing. The lawsuit is still ongoing between Friends and the plaintiffs, but City Councilman Breene Kerr speculated that Friends' insurance company would eventually come to a settlement with the former employees.

Carranza and Rodriguez's lawyer Russell Leibson did not return a call for comment and Friends of Westwind President Ulli Sharma declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

Kerr, who is on the town's Westwind Barn committee, couldn't comment directly on the settlement but spoke with satisfaction about the overall outcome of the legal situation.

"It's fair to say that the total exposure in legal fees potentially was higher than what we settled for," Kerr said.

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