Sunday, August 16, 2009

Broward County Sheriff's Office Found 100% Liable in Serious Accident, But Pays Nothing

Every Dramatic High-Speed Police Chase
Risks Maiming Innocent Members of the Public

When I see reality police shows of police chases, I often wonder why police would chase minor crime suspects through residential neighborhoods at speeds in excess of 90 MPH? Are they so concerned with catching one person that they forget that other members of the public are at risk primarily because the police are chasing another car at high speeds?

But the case of Eric Brody is different. The policeman who smashed into Eric's car was speeding to arrive at work on time.

Eric Brody was said to live a normal life,working and spending time with his family, until Tuesday night, March 3, 1998 when:
A Broward Sheriff's Office deputy, speeding to roll call in his cruiser, had plowed into Eric on the passenger side as Eric was making a left-hand turn into Windward Isle, just yards from home. They learned that even though Sunrise police had originally responded, those officers were sent away, and that the Broward Sheriff's Office [BSO] was conducting its own investigation. The deputy who had hit Eric was named Christopher Thieman; he had survived with a few minor injuries. NewTimes-Broward-PalmBeach
Eric Brody was left physically mangled and mentally disabled to the point of losing his ability to talk and walk and communicate with this family. When the family filed a civil suit against the police and the officer, a suit that was only taken to a jury seven years after the accident:
The jury took five hours to deliberate. "When the jury filed back in," Chuck recalls, "they said, 'We find the defendant, BSO liable, on all counts.' Then they started in with the money figures. So and so for lost wages. So and so for future care. When they added it all up, it was $30.69 million."

BSO was found 100 percent negligent. It was one of the largest verdicts in the nation that year.

( . . .)

[Officer] Christopher Thieman was fired three months after the trial for falsifying police records. In what came to be known as the "Powertrac scandal" involving two other officers and their superiors, Thieman was found to have invented confessions and attributed them to people he had never spoken to.

( . . . )

BSO appealed the trial verdict twice during the next three years. It lost in the Fourth District Court of Appeals, and the Florida Supreme Court dismissed the case. In 2009, when BSO had finally exhausted its legal remedies, Block submitted the Brodys' claims bill to the Florida Legislature. In the years after the trial, Ranger Insurance Co. had been swallowed up by a series of larger companies: The claim was now held by Fairfax Financial Holding Ltd., a multibillion-dollar company based in Toronto. Fairfax is legally obligated to pay the Brodys, but instead, the company prepared to fight the claim.NewTimes-Broward-PalmBeach
After a series of setbacks in a legislature heavily lobbied by the insurance company and the BSO:

The Brodys will have to begin the expensive, time-consuming claims process from scratch in the Legislature's 2010 session. The 2010 bill has already been filed by

Chuck Brody sounds fed up with the wrangling and posturing. "The insurance company just doesn't want to pay the money!" he says. "They and BSO have lied through their teeth from the beginning. My big concern now, when all the bills are paid, is: What's left for him? What happens to Eric when his mother and I are gone?

"What are you gonna do? He's getting shafted. They don't care. I hate to say it. Nobody seems to give a damn."NewTimes-Broward-PalmBeach

Now that a jury has found the Broward Sheriff's Office one hundred percent liable in this case, the question is whether police officers and the sheriff's office will enjoy the near absolute practical impunity that police officers to often abuse in the United States of America.

For each dramatic car chase we see on television and for each high speed run to Dunkin' Doughnuts in a police cruiser, there is the real risk that members of the public will end up as badly mangled as Eric has, or even worse.

The public cannot be free in a country where police act with utter impunity, whether that country is Mexico, China or the United States of America.

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