LOS ANGELES, March 17, 2022 — Larson filed a $20 million lawsuit today against the City of Los Angeles (“City”), the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) chief, and individual LAPD officers alleging that an unlawful traffic stop led to the false arrest and assault of a “Grey’s Anatomy” production employee last year while he was on the job.
On March 18, 2021, Ernest Simon, Jr., a 31-year-old Black man, was driving in the predominantly white L.A. neighborhood of Tarzana as a driver for The Walt Disney Company’s General Entertainment Division while the show was filming on location.
As detailed in the complaint, LAPD police officers initiated a racially motivated “high-risk” traffic stop without any legal justification. Multiple officers then forced Mr. Simon, who was unarmed and fully cooperative, to lie spread eagle on a hot asphalt lot being used as the production “basecamp” for over 20 minutes with numerous officers holding him at gunpoint, at one point even shouting at other crewmembers to get out of the “line of fire,” according to the lawsuit.
“The LAPD’s wrongful and illegal actions caused Mr. Simon to fear that he was about to be shot at his workplace in front of his co-workers for simply being a Black man in the wrong neighborhood,” said Stephen G. Larson, co-lead counsel for Mr. Simon along with Jonathan E. Phillips and A. Alexander Lowder, all partners at Larson. “This lawsuit seeks to right those severe wrongs inflicted upon our client. But it also addresses a larger issue—accountability for the persistent and systematic mistreatment of Black people at the hands of police in Los Angeles and across the country.”
The two officers who initiated the traffic stop did so because, according to the LAPD, the automated license plate reader erroneously alerted them that the production van Mr. Simon was driving that day for his job matched a stolen BMW sedan. The officers did nothing to confirm the accuracy of this alert, according to the complaint.
As noted in the complaint, after following Mr. Simon back to the film production’s basecamp, a production security guard told the officers that Mr. Simon was an employee, but they ignored the guard and forced Mr. Simon out of the van at gunpoint. While forcibly detaining and continuing to hold Mr. Simon at gunpoint, another Black co-worker also told them that Mr. Simon was an employee. They ignored him too. It wasn’t until a white co-worker did the same that they released Mr. Simon, as stated in the complaint.
Mr. Simon is suing the City (of which the LAPD is an agency), LAPD police chief Michael Moore, and the officers at the scene for no less than $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit details multiple causes of action, including unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment; de facto arrest without probable cause; racial profiling; excessive force; false arrest and false imprisonment; assault; and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.