Sunday, June 23, 2002

Settlements in wrongful death suits involving law enforcement

        The average award for the wrongful death of an adult male reached an all-time high of $3.5 million in 2000, according to Jury Verdict Research, a Horsham, Pa., firm that tracks verdicts and settlements nationwide.

        Although there are too few police negligence cases to draw meaningful conclusions, anecdotal evidence suggests that awards in those cases are also on the rise. Some recent cases of note:

       Plaintiff: Estate of Willie Heard Sr.
       Defendant: Miami County, Kan.
       Facts: Sheriff's deputies executing a search warrant at 1:25 a.m. shot and killed Mr. Heard, a 46-year-old employee of a graphics company, in his home. Mr. Heard was holding an unloaded rifle. Deputies had received information that Mr. Heard had bought cocaine, but no drugs were found.
       Settlement: $3.5 million
       Date: March 2001

       Plaintiff: Family of Eli McCoy
       Defendant: Baltimore Metropolitan Housing Authority
       Facts: Mr. McCoy, 17, was running from police when an off-duty housing authority officer joined the chase. The plaintiffs said Mr. McCoy was trying to surrender and may have taunted the officer just before the shooting, saying, “I don't have a weapon, what, you gonna shoot me?” The officer said Mr. McCoy was reaching into his pocket for what he thought was a weapon.

        Verdict: $7 million
       Date: May, 2001

       Plaintiff: Estate of LaTanya Haggerty
       Defendant: City of Chicago
       Facts: Ms. Haggerty, a 26-year-old computer analyst, was a passenger in a car driven by a man fleeing police. A female officer, despite being ordered to call off the pursuit, shot Ms. Haggerty, claiming she saw a gun. It was a cellular phone.

        Settlement: $18 million
       Date: May, 2001

       Sources: Jury Verdict Research, Kansas City Star, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune


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