Rafi Law Firm recovered $414,000 from Fulton County, Georgia in a case that had almost everything you could imagine: an arrest, car chase, serious injuries, destruction of evidence, sanctions (penalties) by the Judge, a settlement — and that’s only some of the story.
The Arrest and Crash
At approximately 11:40 p.m. on July 29, 2014, our Client was arrested for allegedly shoplifting at a local Walmart. Two Fulton County police officers–we are choosing not to reveal their identities, so we are going to call them Officer Rick and Officer Blue–handcuffed Plaintiff and placed him in the back of Officer Rick’s police car. The drive from the Walmart to Fulton County jail should have been the safest ride of our Client’s life, but it was far from it.
While our Client was being arrested, there was a call over police radio saying there was a stolen vehicle near the Walmart. Officer Rick radioed back to dispatch and confirmed he heard the report of the stolen vehicle. As Officer Rick was driving our Client to jail, he radioed to dispatch, “the stolen car just passed me.” According to our Client, Officer Rick pulled a U-turn, hit the gas, and chased after the stolen car. Eventually, Officer Rick crashed into the stolen car. Here are photographs of the Fulton County police car and the stolen vehicle:
During the lawsuit, Fulton County claimed Officer Rick did not chase the stolen vehicle, and in fact, he did not even know there was as a stolen vehicle in the area — the recording of the police radio traffic clearly showed otherwise.
There were many other police officers in the area, because they were also responding to the report of the stolen vehicle. After the crash, the driver of the stolen vehicle got out of the car and ran away. Some of the responding officers chased after the driver, but police did not find him and still have not.
The other responding officers raced to check on Officer Rick and our Client. Police found Officer Rick unconscious and laying from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat. Our client, who we said was handcuffed but not seat-belted, crashed into the divider wall between the front and back seats and injured his neck.
Officer Rick initially told Fulton County investigators that our Client was not seat-belted, because according to him, the police car he was driving did not have seat-belts in the back seat. Here is a photo of the inside of Officer Rick’s police car — the arrow is pointing to not 1, not 2, but 3 seat-belts:
When we interviewed Officer Rick, he claimed he never told Fulton County investigators his car did not have seat-belts, and incredibly, Officer Rick claimed he seat-belted our Client before starting to drive. Police found our client laying across the backseat unconscious — this would have meant that our Client, who was in handcuffs, somehow took off his seat-belt after the crash while unconscious. In spite of all the evidence, Fulton County refused to admit Officer Rick failed to seat-belt our Client.
Once upon the scene, EMTs rushed Officer Rick and our Client to Grady Hospital. Thankfully, Officer Rick was checked-out by doctors and then released a short time later.
Our Client was not so fortunate, though. Doctors determined our Client had a disc herniation in his neck. On the left is a classic neck herniation and on the right is our Client’s actual imaging study showing his disc herniation:
Grady surgeons performed an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. This is how the surgery is performed:
In this post-operative imaging study, you can see the metal hardware that will permanently be in our Client’s neck:
Our Client had a difficult recovery, but he is now back to living a normal life.
Destruction of Evidence, Cover-up, Sanctions by the Judge for “Appalling” Conduct
Fulton County destroyed evidence — important evidence — and then tried to cover it up. There were 2 electronic data recorders, known as “black boxes,” inside the police car at the time of the crash. Here is a Fulton County police supervisor (who was not involved in any misconduct) accurately explaining what information is saved on a black box:
The problem was that when we went to inspect the vehicle, the black boxes were gone. Fulton County claimed it did not know what happened to the black boxes. But here is what actually happened:
- After the crash, Fulton County transported the police car to a repair center.
- Fulton County then sold the police car to a junkyard, where it sat for months and months.
- After selling the police car, Fulton County claimed the police car had never been sold. This is an email from Fulton County–when they wrote this, they knew they had already sold the car and it was sitting at the junkyard:
- After selling the police car and while it was sitting in junkyard and after telling us the police car had never been sold, Fulton County secretly got the police car back from the junkyard.
- We inspected the police car–not knowing Fulton County had sold it and gotten it back–and found it did not have either black box.
- Fulton County first claimed the police car did not have any black boxes, and then claimed it did not know whether it had black boxes. But, when we questioned a Fulton County supervisor under oath about the topic, the supervisor (who had no involvement in any misconduct) admitted the car did have black boxes:
- 7. We learned the Fulton County had sold the police car and got Fulton County to admit to it:
- 8. Fulton County then claimed the junkyard must have taken the black boxes, but when we talked to the junkyard, they said they did not sell any parts of the police car.
We do not use “cover-up” lightly, but we do not know what else to call what Fulton County tried to do. It is no wonder when we brought this issue (and other misconduct by Fulton County) to the Judge she declared:
this Court specifically finds that Defendant acted in bad faith in relation to the data recorders, in particular by selling the vehicle, attempting to hide the sale and secretly recovering the car, denying the mere existence of the data recorders, and generally obfuscating the Plaintiff’s discovery of the information that now has been destroyed.
[Fulton County’s] continued dilatory conduct and resistance to turning over even the most obviously relevant information is appalling. The Plaintiff has been required to resort to intervention by this Court in order to get [Fulton County] to admit that documents exist and to produce even the most minimal discovery, and even then the production is untimely and insufficient.
You can read the Judge’s entire Order by clicking here.
Very early on in the case–before we knew about Fulton County’s misconduct–we offered to settle the case for $300,000, but Fulton County refused. We then worked the case the only way we know how: aggressively, diligently, and ethically. As we approached trial, Fulton County agreed to settle the case for more than $414,000 — this was a life changing amount of money for our Client.
It is our privilege to zealously represent our clients and our duty to put their best interests first. We were very confident this was a multi-million dollar case if tried before a jury (although under State law, it is extremely difficult to recover more than $500,000 from Fulton County). It is also our job as lawyers to help our clients make the right decision for them given their circumstances. While we would have relished the opportunity to have a trial, we felt it was the best decision for our Client to settle his case, because the money would truly change his life.
One important note: we admire and respect police officers, including the Fulton County Police Department.
We regularly rely on police officers’ amazing investigative work to help our clients who are in car crashes and are victims of violent crimes at apartment complexes and other businesses. But, no matter who you are–whether you have a badge, drive a truck, own a trucking company, manage an apartment complex, or are a regular Joe–if you hurt our clients, lie to us, try to trick us, or treat our clients unfairly, we will find out, we will prove it, and we will win the case.