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The state court of appeals for the Fourth District on October 17 settled a conflict between two drivers in Bernardo Heights.

Dr. Richard Lee Austin and his wife Karen Mazzocco in 2008 lived in the gated community of Bernardo Heights named Fairway Pointe. On October 17, 2008, Cheryl Johns, a nurse, was sitting in her car at the entrance to the community. Dr. Austin drove up and Johns said she was waiting to be let through the gate.

The court states, "Johns followed Austin through the gate. When Austin noticed that Johns had followed him, he stopped short, apparently in an effort to prevent her from entering through the gate.

Johns rear-ended him at a speed of two or three miles per hour. The only damage was to Johns's front bumper cover. Continues the court, "After the cars made contact, Austin backed his car toward Johns, who had been backing up, and then got out of his car. Austin was admittedly angry. He kicked the driver's side of John's car" and caused damage.

"Austin repeatedly yelled at Johns, telling her to back up and saying that she was trespassing." Then, "Austin reached into Johns's car to grab a notebook that Johns was holding…. He threw the notebook to the ground. When Johns got out of her car to retrieve her notebook, Austin got into Johns's car and backed it up...he threw her keys to the ground." She called the cops, who "arrested Austin at the entrance gate."

The court notes that at the time of the incident, Mazzocco was married to Austin. Austin "ultimately pled guilty to felony vandalism," says the court.

In October of 2009, Johns filed suit against Austin and Mazzocco. Farmers Insurance Exchange represented Mazzocco and Austin, who, after three years of litigation, eventually agreed to pay Johns $250,000, settling Johns's criminal restitution claims against Austin.

"By this time, Johns was claiming $553,975 in criminal restitution," notes the court. Farmers didn't contribute to the settlement. Farmers sued the couple seeking reimbursement for money it had paid that it didn't believe was covered by the policy. Austin and Mazzocco filed a cross-complaint.

Farmers spent $319,981,83 defending Mazzocco and Austin; a jury found that $45,390 of that sum was spent on claims not covered under the policy. Mazzocco, filing on her own behalf, appealed the decision on a number of grounds, such as that there was't sufficient evidence to show she had reimbursement obligations. She lost at the trial level and the appellate court affirmed the opinion, saying "Mazzocco's contentions are without merit."

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AlexClarke Oct. 23, 2014 @ 11:51 a.m.

Damn those gated communities. Johns was really a threat to the community. That's what those gates are for to keep out riffraff like nurses.


Don Bauder Oct. 23, 2014 @ 12:55 p.m.

AlexClarke: Yes, gated communities cause societal problems. Doctors often treat nurses badly. On the other hand, do you really think Johns deserved more than $550,000 in restitution? Best, Don Bauder


JustWondering Oct. 24, 2014 @ 11:11 a.m.

I don't think the award was high enough! This doctor's behavior was outrageous and bordered on terrorism over something as insignificant as entry into a gated community. There is something VERY WRONG with his thought processes, and her, the doctor's wife sense of entitlement. Fortunately in this case, the trial court as well as the appellate justices send a strong and clear message with this award. Sadly for those who use Farmers for their insurance coverage they will be subsidizing these two. Too bad the doc didn't get any time in the slammer or at a minimum some anger management counseling, he's bound to abuse others in the future.


Don Bauder Oct. 24, 2014 @ 12:16 p.m.

JustWondering: You make good points. The court made clear that the doctor was angry. The court's report on the incident speaks for itself and needs no embellishment. I think the restitution claim of more than $550,000 was greatly legal fees, but the doctor and his wife invited that by taking this matter to court. Best, Don Bauder


JustWondering Oct. 24, 2014 @ 11:32 a.m.

I also suspect John's attorney walked away with a substantial share of the award. One-third of the 550k is nothing the sneeze about.


Don Bauder Oct. 24, 2014 @ 12:18 p.m.

JustWondering: No doubt Johns's attorney got plenty. Best, Don Bauder


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