Officer Brown was ten months away from a mandatory retirement when he reached 65 years old. He was working a plain clothes detail at a stadium event. He worked this location numerous times in the past. The event involved a tournament with several college athletic teams participating. While working outside the stadium, Officer Brown noticed several men acting as if they were intoxicated. The men appeared college age and were observed stumbling and eating food off the ground. He continued to observe them when one of the men, George Cross, stopped in a public area and leaned up against a wall. Officer Brown then observed Cross urinating on the wall in a busy pedestrian area. At the same time families with young children were approaching the area. Officer Brown approached the man from behind. He held his badge out in his extended left hand where it was clearly visible to Cross and grabbed Cross’ shoulder with his right hand. Officer Brown loudly identified himself as a police officer and informed Cross he was under arrest. Officer Brown intended to quietly remove the man from the public area and, if necessary, place the man in protective custody; however, the man swung around forcefully in an attempt to get away. Officer Brown was thrown to the ground as he attempted to hold on to Cross as Cross began to pull away and run. Officer Brown hurt his knee and neck in the fall. Other officers working the event received a radio description of the fleeing suspect. The suspect was subsequently apprehended in the parking lot of the stadium, arrested and charged with several crimes including resisting arrest and public indecency. Officer Brown later learned Cross was a college athlete.
Despite discomfort in his neck, Officer Brown only missed several days of work before returning to his normal shift. The neck discomfort did not subside and continued to increase over the next two months to the point where it was disabling. After consulting with a neurosurgeon, a CT scan was performed. The scan showed a large herniated disc in his neck that required emergency surgery before the condition worsened as it was pressing on the spinal cord. Officer Brown’s surgery was successful, but it left him with residual problems. His surgeon refused to clear him to return to the physical work of a police officer during the next nine months before Officer Brown turned 65 years old. This is not how Officer Brown envisioned his career would end. Adding to Officer Brown’s aggravation about this needless injury, the defendant never apologized and went on to graduate and receive national recognition for being a scholar athlete. We calculated Officer Brown would lose an estimated $75,000 in income during the five years after his retirement from being unable to work details. Although Officer Brown’s town paid for his injury on duty wages and medical expenses until his mandatory retirement, he lost an estimated $60,000 in detail income during the nine months following his surgery until he retired at age 65. While Officer Brown could never put on the uniform again, Cross graduated with national recognition as a scholar athlete and was off to a financial career.
After Officer Brown consulted with me, he gave me the green light to file a lawsuit in Superior Court against Cross for negligently resisting arrest. My philosophy in these cases is everyone in the community must obey a police officer, especially an officer’s order to submit to being arrested. When a person doesn’t obey and an officer is injured, that person is responsible for all the harm which is caused.
During our lawsuit Cross argued, as expected, that Officer Brown’s injury and surgery three months later was not related to the incident as he had degenerative changes in his cervical spine long before the incident. That 64 year old Officer Brown’s neck would have degenerative changes which come from age was no surprise. However, a person can have degenerative arthritic changes throughout areas of their spine and no symptoms. Officer Brown had no prior neck symptoms. His surgeon was firm in his opinion and prepared to testify that the trauma which took place during the arrest caused the cervical injury on which he operated. The injury began when Officer Brown attempted to arrest Cross and then continued to progress over the next several months. Cross also argued Officer Brown failed to identify himself as a police officer when he grabbed Cross. This contention was rebutted by Officer Brown and another witness nearby. After initial litigation and negotiations, Officer Brown agreed to settle his claim against Cross for $400,000.
Officers injured on or off duty should consult with us early on, so we can determine whether you have a viable case and for you to learn what your rights are. Sometimes we need to do some investigation to determine whether a case is worthwhile to proceed for an injured officer. Decisions about whether to proceed with a claim always belong to the injured officer, not us, and can be made later. When we work on these cases, we work on a contingent fee basis. That means the injured officer pays nothing up front, nor while the case is pending. He or she only need pay for legal services and expenses at the end of the case, if we successfully collect money on their claim. We typically will receive one-third of the money collected. In the off chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our services.
– Steven M. Ballin, Esq.
(In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer and witnesses, all names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. This injured officer agreed to have this article published in order that police officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured during such detail assignments)