Lawsuits against police officers are tough. This is because Virginia law gives police officers qualified immunity from liability based on allegations of negligence. As explained in Part 1 of our blog on police officer negligence, in this context “qualified immunity” means that the law shields a police officer from liability for acts of simple negligence, provided that the officer was acting within the scope of authority and was not grossly negligent.
Even though lawsuits against police officers are tough, they can be won. Cuthbert Law Offices has tried or settled four of them and in each, the insurance company for the police officer paid a substantial amount of money to our clients. Of course, it goes without saying that every case is different, and success in one case does not mean that the facts will allow us to prevail in every case.
Green v. Ingram was a case in which Cuthbert law Offices represented the estate of Ms. Green. Ms. Green was fatally shot by the Richmond Police Department during a drug raid. The jury found that the officer who fatally shot Ms. Green was grossly negligent when he departed from instruction and training and fired 5 frangible rounds into the door behind which Ms. Green was walking. Ms. Green was survived by two daughters. Cuthbert Law Offices won $1.5 million dollars on behalf two little girls.
We brought another case against a police officer who spooked a citizen who was driving on Route 460 in Prince George County, causing an auto accident where the citizen crashed their car. The police officer claimed that he was responding to an emergency. After hearing the evidence, however, the judge determined otherwise, relying heavily on the fact that the officer took the time to shave before leaving home to respond to the alleged emergency. The case was settled shortly thereafter.
A third case involved a police officer in a county west of Petersburg who, while off duty, sped to the scene of a serious crime even though he had not been dispatched to do so. While speeding, the officer crossed into the lane of oncoming traffic, killing the other driver and badly wounding the passenger in the other car.
Our fourth case involved a police pursuit of three teens suspected by the police officer of having shoplifted at a 7-Eleven in Petersburg. As it turned out, however, surveillance tape showed the three teens entering the store ONLY AFTER the clerk phoned the police to report the shoplifting. We prevailed by arguing that the officer was not trustworthy. For example, the officer testified that an 11-year-old Pontiac Sunfire outran his brand new eight-cylinder Dodge Charger! And because the family got us involved right after the tragedy took place, we were able to obtain the recordings of police radio traffic before the recordings got erased. Those tapes contained a step-by-step description by the police officer of the dangers to which he exposed the public as he chased the Pontiac.
There are two lessons to all of this. First, regardless of how a person has been hurt, if the person has been hurt badly due to the fault of someone else, Cuthbert Law Offices is ready and able to help. It does not matter whether the incident involves police negligence, a tractor trailer wreck, medical malpractice, drunk driving, or something else. Second, the sooner you get us involved, the better. Quick involvement allows us to get to work for you immediately to preserve the evidence—taking photographs of tire marks on the road, getting 911 tapes that otherwise will be used for new recordings, interviewing witnesses before the insurance company tells them not to talk, and so on. You can reach us 24/7 every day of the year by calling us at (804) 485-2555. So keep us in mind.