While acknowledging the tragedy of the shooting of a Los Angeles County Fire Department engineer by a colleague at the Agua Dulce station in 2021, a lawyer for the county says in new court papers that Los Angeles County does not have liability due to governmental immunity and workers’ compensation rules.
The lawsuit was brought Jan. 21 by Heidi Carlon, who was married to the late 44-year-old Tory Carlon; her adult daughter, Joslyn Carlon; and Heidi Carlon‘s two other daughters, who are both minors, alleging wrongful death, negligence and civil rights violations. Named as defendants are the county and the estate of Jonathan Patrick Tatone, who fatally shot Carlon before killing himself.
“Although Tatone pulled the trigger, it was the Los Angeles County Fire Department leadership’s ratification of Tatone’s years of dangerous conduct that was the substantial factor in the death of Carlon,” the suit alleges. But in court papers filed Monday, Mira Hashmall, an attorney for the county, states that while her client “expresses its deepest sympathies to the family of Tory Carlon … this lawsuit does not state any valid claims against the county. The county is not responsible for Tatone’s shooting or Carlon’s death.”
The workers’ compensation process is the exclusive remedy when employees are injured or killed at work, Hashmall argues in her court papers.
“Indeed, Plaintiff Heidi Carlon has already filed a workers’ compensation claim … so she cannot argue that workers’ compensation does not apply,” Hashmall states in her court papers.
Hashmall further states that the county has governmental immunity and that there was “no duty owed to Carlon by the county,” which she maintains defeats the family’s negligence claim.
Carlon was working at Station No. 81 on Sierra Highway on June 1, 2021, when the 45-year-old Tatone, who also was an engineer but was off duty, arrived and an argument ensued, authorities said. Tatone subsequently shot Carlon, who later died, and county Fire Capt. Arnie Sandoval, who survived. Tatone left for his Acton residence, which he set afire before shooting himself to death.
Carlon and others had consistently warned that Tatone was “unhinged and dangerous,” but the county “chose to ignore, ratify and empower Tatone’s bad conduct,” the suit alleges. Tatone was mentally unstable as well as “angry, unpredictable, violent and eventually deadly” as well as an “open wound in Fire Station 81, left to fester and infect for years…,” the suit states. A hearing on the county’s dismissal motion is scheduled Jan. 9 before Judge Stephen P. Pfahler.
Hashmall also represented the county in a trial of a lawsuit in which a federal jury awarded Vanessa Bryant $16 million and her co-plaintiff $15 million for mental anguish caused by the actions of first-responders who snapped and shared gruesome photos from the scene of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people.