Wife of LAPD officer sues city after contracting disease from spouse

(Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

The wife of a Los Angeles police officer assigned to the Central Community Police Station is suing the city after both she and
her husband contracted typhus, which she alleges resulted from his working at an unsafe building located in an area with a large homeless population.

Barbara Wong's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges negligence and liability on the city's part for having a dangerous condition on public property and seeks unspecified damages. The complaint criticizes Mayor Eric Garcetti, Police Chief Michel Moore and others for allegedly failing to take corrective action.

A representative for the City Attorney's Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit filed Thursday.

Wong's husband, Franklin Chen, joined the LAPD in 2013 and was assigned to the Central Community Police Station two years later. Numerous calls for service to the station are related to the homeless population that lives on nearby streets and parks, the suit states.

"The encampments of the homeless population within the Central Division are unsanitary ... rat-infested and flea-infested," the suit says. "There are no toilets or bathing facilities and the homeless population routinely use city property to relieve themselves."

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, which protects California workers from health and safety hazards on the job, has deemed the Central Community Police Station to be unsafe for many of the same unsanitary reasons and ordered the city to abate the conditions, according to the suit. However, the city has failed to take the actions ordered by Cal/OSHA, the suit alleges.

Chen became violently ill with a high fever last spring and was diagnosed with typhus in June, and Wong contracted the disease from her husband in October, according to the suit, which says she believes he got the disease from a flea bite.

Wong believes that many city officials, including Garcetti and Moore and other members of the LAPD command staff, knew of the conditions at the station and in the area served by officers stationed there and "permitted the conditions to remain unabated and to increase in severity...," the suit alleges.

Since being infected by her husband, Wong has experienced fever, chills, headaches, sleep problems and general malaise, the suit states.