A law firm representing the family of a former Brownwood Police Explorer who was sexually assaulted by former police Sgt. Vince Ariaz has named the price of a settlement: $1 million.
Brownwood City Attorney Pat Chesser said the Austin-based law firm has demanded that amount from the insurance carrier - Liberty Mutual - that provides coverage for the Boy Scouts, the Explorers’ parent organization, on behalf of the Explorers and the city.
But Liberty Mutual has not indicated it will settle, and a federal lawsuit appears imminent, Chesser said. “It’s my understanding … they do not have adequate information to evaluate the case for settlement purposes,” Chesser said.
He said he understands the law firm has indicated it will file suit in federal court in Dallas at the end of this week or next week. Chesser said he anticipates that the City of Brownwood and the Boy Scouts would be among the defendants named in the suit.
Chesser said he assumes the law firm believes that the Boy Scouts’ insurance is the primary carrier in litigation related to Ariaz.
If a lawsuit is filed, the case would still have the potential of being settled through mediation, Chesser said.
Ariaz, the former head adviser of Brownwood Explorer Post 1150, was arrested in July 2007 on allegations that he had sexual contact with two female Explorer members. In a plea bargain, Ariaz pleaded guilty in May in 35th District Court to two counts of sexual assault of a child and no contest to one count of indecency. He was sentenced to three concurrent 20-year prison terms.
Acting on an open records request from the Bulletin, Chesser provided a copy of a Sept. 26 letter from attorney Scott Ozmun, of the Whitehurst, Harkness, Ozmun and Brees firm, to Liberty Mutual.
The letter, addressed to a claims specialist in the company’s Irving office, claims a jury verdict would exceed $2.5 million.
But the Explorer post has $1 million in available insurance coverage trough Liberty Mutual, and the plaintiffs demand that amount to settle all claims against the City of Brownwood, the Brownwood Police Explorer post and all of its advisers, Ariaz and Police Chief Virgil Cowin, Ozmun’s letter states.
The demand will remain open for 30 days after the company’s receipt of the letter. “If it is not accepted within that time frame, it will be withdrawn and we will file suit,” the letter states.
Neither Ozmun nor Barbara Patterson, the Liberty Mutual claims specialist to whom Ozmun’s letter was addressed, could be reached Wednesday for comment.
Ozmun’s letter to Liberty Mutual is similar to a letter Ozmun wrote to Chesser on April 15. In that letter, Ozmun asked the city to enter settlement negotiations in connection with Ariaz. Brownwood City Council members voted to refer the matter to the city’s liability insurance carrier, the Texas Municipal League’s Intergovernmental Risk Pool.
Ozmun’s letter named the city, Cowin and Ariaz as defendants if a suit was filed. The letter also claimed that Cowin had known about allegations against Ariaz in 2004 but had done nothing about them. Cowin has disputed that claim, saying the first time he knew about a criminal case against Ariaz was about a week before Ariaz’ 2007 arrest.
Two previous mediation sessions were canceled.