Coralville man to receive $390,000 settlement after wrongly accused of impaired driving

cigaretteman

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The cities of Iowa City and Coralville have reached a $390,000 civil settlement with a Coralville man who was wrongly accused of drunken driving even without any evidence of alcohol or drugs in his system — which caused him to lose his apartment and job and delayed treatment for a brain injury.


Anthony Watson sued the two cities and two police officers — Iowa City Officer Travis Graves and Coralville Officer Jeff Reinhard — for negligence resulting in personal injury, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution, according to the petition.


The settlement is on the agenda for the Iowa City Council to approve Tuesday. Iowa City will pay half — $195,000 — and Coralville will pay the other half, according to the resolution approving the settlement.


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Watson’s lawyer, Marty Diaz, declined to comment last week.


On Dec. 16, 2017, Watson stopped at the Casey’s store on the corner of Dubuque and Market streets to get gas and was approached by Graves, who was investigating a reckless driving incident. The officer hadn’t witnessed it but was sent to that location by a dispatcher who had a report of a reckless driver.


Graves interviewed Watson and asked him to perform field sobriety tests, which he passed. Graves then asked him to take a preliminary breath test, which Watson did and it showed no alcohol use.


The officer was suspicious that Watson might be under the influence of a drug and requested assistance from Reinhard to perform a drug use evaluation at the Iowa City Police Department. Watson agreed to go there for the evaluation, according to the suit.


The evaluation, which is an unscientific and subjective assessment, the lawsuit noted, determined Watson was under the influence of marijuana despite the lack of drug testing.


Watson then agreed to provide a urine specimen, which also came back negative for marijuana or any other drug. But Reinhard and Graves still arrested him for OWI, first offense, a serious misdemeanor. However, Reinhard failed to disclose the results of the urine specimen test in his arrest report.







At the time of arrest, the officers knew they didn’t have probable cause to make the arrest, and also knew Watson was on parole so he would face an additional charge for violating his parole and would likely remain in jail pending his trial, the lawsuit contends.


On Dec. 17, Graves filed his criminal complaint against Watson, which also failed to disclose the lack of breath and urine testing, according to the suit. One of the officers also contacted a parole officer about Watson’s arrest and the parole officer filed a report against Watson for violating his parole.


A criminal charge against Watson was filed Jan. 9, 2018 by the Johnson County Attorney’s Office.


The Coralville Police Department sent Watson’s urine specimen taken on Dec. 16, 2017, for further testing, which came back Feb. 1, 2018. But there was no evidence of drug use, according to the suit.


Watson was finally released from the Johnson County Jail March 6, 2018, after being there since Dec. 16, 2017.


The Johnson County Attorney’s office dismissed the charge against Watson April 9, 2018 for “anticipated problems of proof fatal to the prosecution — breath and toxicology came back negative for alcohol and/or controlled substances.”


As a result of Watson being held in jail for months, he lost his apartment and job and he didn’t get the medical care he needed for a brain injury, the suit contends. He had a seizure and wasn’t immediately taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where he was eventually admitted and treated for encephalopathy — damage or disease that affects the brain.


The arrest and delay in obtaining medical care resulted in a seizure and caused or contributed to the development of the brain damage, resulting in “immediate physical harm with potential long-term consequences,” the suit stated.

 
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onlyTheObvious

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Maybe his behavior made him appear drunk as a side affect of brain injury?

I assume he was ok to drive but clearly the police did pay attention to details/procedure.
 

tumorboy

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Something a tumor boy could get away with saying. . .
Kidding aside I've seen plenty of deaf and/or brain impaired folks get taking advantage of by lawyers, doctors, and other professionals. Of course the client may have just wanted to move on with his life. Put the Trauma behind him. Also the amount he got may seem like a fortune. Depending on his perception.
 
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lucas80

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Maybe his behavior made him appear drunk as a side affect of brain injury?

I assume he was ok to drive but clearly the police did pay attention to details/procedure.
You didn't read the article before your natural instinct to be contrarian kicked in, huh?
 

sober_teacher

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Aside from a civil suit… I don’t understand why the actions of these police officers would not also be considered a crime.
It’s the problem I have with law enforcement issues today. When they screw up, the public is all too often either left completely in the dark regarding any consequences for the officers, it Seemingly gets swept under the rug, or nothing major actually happens to the cops.

last year i believe Iowa gop passed a law that made it even harder to sue cops when they screw up.
 

Hoosierhawkeye

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Maybe his behavior made him appear drunk as a side affect of brain injury?

I assume he was ok to drive but clearly the police did pay attention to details/procedure.

Ok even if we assume that the biggest issue is that the officer arrested him despite the tests coming back negative and "forgot" to mention them in his report.

So either the officer had it out for him or he decided that he was guilty and no evidence to the contrary was going to convince him otherwise.

Officer needs to face criminal charges for this.
 

onlyTheObvious

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You didn't read the article before your natural instinct to be contrarian kicked in, huh?
Two sides to every story. No I don’t read the article and no I am not siding with police.

nothing is as black and white as you think.

I assume the police didn’t just say “we knew he wasn’t drunk, we just wanted to F him over”.
 

sober_teacher

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Two sides to every story. No I don’t read the article and no I am not siding with police.

nothing is as black and white as you think.

I assume the police didn’t just say “we knew he wasn’t drunk, we just wanted to F him over”.
Just about every test they asked him to take came back negative about him being impaired. if nothing else this smacks to me of a cop reaching a conclusion based on an assumption and simply refused to have his mind changed.
 

tumorboy

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Just about every test they asked him to take came back negative about him being impaired. if nothing else this smacks to me of a cop reaching a conclusion based on an assumption and simply refused to have his mind changed.
Cops should have called an ambulance.
 

tumorboy

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Why? He passed the sobriety tests on-site. From what I understood from the article, he wasn’t in distress, injured, etc. just an assumption by the cop that this guy was impaired somehow.
Well if he passed all the tests. But still seemed impaired it was a better option for everyone than arresting him.
 

runkpanole

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The low settlement maybe due to sovereign immunity laws. In Florida it is $200K or the legislature has to approve any judgement above that. So, $195K gets him his money now rather than having to wait.
 
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AuroraHawk

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I agree that $390K strikes me as being "low" based upon the reported facts. "Based upon the reported facts" being the key phrase.

Marty Diaz is a good and very experienced plaintiff's lawyer. He wouldn't settle "cheap" simply for the sake of getting a 33% contingency fee. There's got to be more to this story that isn't being reported.

I've seen situations where a particular plaintiff simply does not have the resources to wait for a trial. For example, about 10 years ago, I was involved in an explosion investigation and an injured person settled before suit was filed (my client wasn't asked to contribute) because a bank had initiated foreclosure proceedings on his house and he needed an immediate injection of cash to stop the foreclosure proceedings.

A quick check on Iowa Courts online shows that Anthony Watson was on probation because of a prior sexual assault claim. He went to trial and a jury found him guilty. If I'm reading the record correctly, he spent nearly a year in jail on that conviction before being release on probation. He was required to register as a sex offender. At all times, he was represented by a public defender. As the article notes, part of the reason why he lost his apartment and why he was in jail for so long was due to a probation violation. Because that was part of his claim, any jury sitting in the civil suit would have learned of the charge and his conviction. Like it or not, juries are often influenced by prior bad acts - even if the cops in this case acted horrendously and railroaded this guy. It is entirely possible that the "delayed treatment for brain injury" claim was weak. (For example, what damage did the delay cause? Entirely possible that, even if he had a seizure and delayed treatment for that seizure, there was only minimal if any damage caused by delay - medical experts would address that situation)

It is also not lost on me that a jury might conclude that the taxpayers of the City of Iowa City and City of Coralville would ultimately foot the bill for any massive verdict. Setting aside the issue of whether such claims are insured (the jury would not be told of insurance), it is possible that Diaz was concerned about how a Johnson County jury would deal with this issue.

Entirely possible that both the Plaintiff and his attorney (a) had concerns about Plaintiff's credibility and character; (b) Plaintiff needed the money and (c) a bird in the hand is worth many birds in the bush.

Lots of variables in play in these types of situations. (All that written, I pulled up documents filed in the civil case and, based upon deposition excerpts that I read, the two police officers' conduct is troubling - very troubling. There were a lot of exculpatory facts omitted from the officers' report - more than what the newspaper article reported)
 

Finance85

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I knew a guy in college who played basketball. He was a second team guy, and the team wasn't good back then. He got stopped in downtown Atlanta for not having a current GA tag, though he had a valid out of state tag. It was a rookie white cop with an older black cop.

After the white cop couldn't do the ticket for the tag he got mad and accused the guy of drunk driving. They arrested him, tore up his car, and charged him with DWI. Player blew 0.00. They said he was on drugs and he offered to give a blood sample. They declined and locked him up.
He had to make bail. Kid's parents called the GBI, and asked for an investigation. Charges got dropped but the kid was advised to not pursue it as a civil matter. Cost him bail bond fees, towing, impound, and damage to his car.
 
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sober_teacher

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Well if he passed all the tests. But still seemed impaired it was a better option for everyone than arresting him.
i don’t think the cop was thinking about safety. Sure sounds like he’d decided this guy was impaired and he was going to bring him in no matter what.
 
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AuroraHawk

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The low settlement maybe due to sovereign immunity laws. In Florida it is $200K or the legislature has to approve any judgement above that. So, $195K gets him his money now rather than having to wait.

Nope. False arrest, false imprionment, abuse of process and deceit are all excluded from any statutory sovereign immunity protections.
 
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ping72

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I assume the police didn’t just say “we knew he wasn’t drunk, we just wanted to F him over”.
The police found him in a parking lot: never saw him driving. He passed a field sobriety test. He passed the breathalyzer. He even pissed in a cup which found no traces of drugs. And THEN they arrested him.

i’m having a hard time seeing this as anything else.
 

Colonoscopy

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I agree that $390K strikes me as being "low" based upon the reported facts. "Based upon the reported facts" being the key phrase.

Marty Diaz is a good and very experienced plaintiff's lawyer. He wouldn't settle "cheap" simply for the sake of getting a 33% contingency fee. There's got to be more to this story that isn't being reported.

I've seen situations where a particular plaintiff simply does not have the resources to wait for a trial. For example, about 10 years ago, I was involved in an explosion investigation and an injured person settled before suit was filed (my client wasn't asked to contribute) because a bank had initiated foreclosure proceedings on his house and he needed an immediate injection of cash to stop the foreclosure proceedings.

A quick check on Iowa Courts online shows that Anthony Watson was on probation because of a prior sexual assault claim. He went to trial and a jury found him guilty. If I'm reading the record correctly, he spent nearly a year in jail on that conviction before being release on probation. He was required to register as a sex offender. At all times, he was represented by a public defender. As the article notes, part of the reason why he lost his apartment and why he was in jail for so long was due to a probation violation. Because that was part of his claim, any jury sitting in the civil suit would have learned of the charge and his conviction. Like it or not, juries are often influenced by prior bad acts - even if the cops in this case acted horrendously and railroaded this guy. It is entirely possible that the "delayed treatment for brain injury" claim was weak. (For example, what damage did the delay cause? Entirely possible that, even if he had a seizure and delayed treatment for that seizure, there was only minimal if any damage caused by delay - medical experts would address that situation)

It is also not lost on me that a jury might conclude that the taxpayers of the City of Iowa City and City of Coralville would ultimately foot the bill for any massive verdict. Setting aside the issue of whether such claims are insured (the jury would not be told of insurance), it is possible that Diaz was concerned about how a Johnson County jury would deal with this issue.

Entirely possible that both the Plaintiff and his attorney (a) had concerns about Plaintiff's credibility and character; (b) Plaintiff needed the money and (c) a bird in the hand is worth many birds in the bush.

Lots of variables in play in these types of situations. (All that written, I pulled up documents filed in the civil case and, based upon deposition excerpts that I read, the two police officers' conduct is troubling - very troubling. There were a lot of exculpatory facts omitted from the officers' report - more than what the newspaper article reported)
I love posters that actually know something about a given topic and can provide real perspective.
 

tumorboy

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I agree that $390K strikes me as being "low" based upon the reported facts. "Based upon the reported facts" being the key phrase.

Marty Diaz is a good and very experienced plaintiff's lawyer. He wouldn't settle "cheap" simply for the sake of getting a 33% contingency fee. There's got to be more to this story that isn't being reported.

I've seen situations where a particular plaintiff simply does not have the resources to wait for a trial. For example, about 10 years ago, I was involved in an explosion investigation and an injured person settled before suit was filed (my client wasn't asked to contribute) because a bank had initiated foreclosure proceedings on his house and he needed an immediate injection of cash to stop the foreclosure proceedings.

A quick check on Iowa Courts online shows that Anthony Watson was on probation because of a prior sexual assault claim. He went to trial and a jury found him guilty. If I'm reading the record correctly, he spent nearly a year in jail on that conviction before being release on probation. He was required to register as a sex offender. At all times, he was represented by a public defender. As the article notes, part of the reason why he lost his apartment and why he was in jail for so long was due to a probation violation. Because that was part of his claim, any jury sitting in the civil suit would have learned of the charge and his conviction. Like it or not, juries are often influenced by prior bad acts - even if the cops in this case acted horrendously and railroaded this guy. It is entirely possible that the "delayed treatment for brain injury" claim was weak. (For example, what damage did the delay cause? Entirely possible that, even if he had a seizure and delayed treatment for that seizure, there was only minimal if any damage caused by delay - medical experts would address that situation)

It is also not lost on me that a jury might conclude that the taxpayers of the City of Iowa City and City of Coralville would ultimately foot the bill for any massive verdict. Setting aside the issue of whether such claims are insured (the jury would not be told of insurance), it is possible that Diaz was concerned about how a Johnson County jury would deal with this issue.

Entirely possible that both the Plaintiff and his attorney (a) had concerns about Plaintiff's credibility and character; (b) Plaintiff needed the money and (c) a bird in the hand is worth many birds in the bush.

Lots of variables in play in these types of situations. (All that written, I pulled up documents filed in the civil case and, based upon deposition excerpts that I read, the two police officers' conduct is troubling - very troubling. There were a lot of exculpatory facts omitted from the officers' report - more than what the newspaper article reported)
I'm thinking he wanted to move on with his life.
 

AuroraHawk

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$80k'ish for 5 years? Pretty good salary for just sitting around. Granted he had to go through some shit to get there, but not a bad price (in my opinion)

That's not what he will get.

Plaintiff's lawyer math:
Settlement: $395,000
(Less 33% contingency): $130,350
Remainder: $264,650
(Less expert fees, deposition costs, litigation costs): Plaintiff had several experts and there were a number of depositions. I'd estimate between $25,000 and $50,000 likely spent on experts during the 2+ years that this case was being litigated.
Remainder: $214,650 to $239,650

If there are any medical costs sought as part of the case, entirely possible that there is a medical bill lien. Could also be a Medicaid "superlien." Just not enough information to know.

In other words, it is fair to estimate that Plaintiff will "net" between 54% to 60% of the ultimate settlement.
 
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tumorboy

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Agreed. Just for my curiosity, what did you feel the settlement should have been?
Well it depends on two factors how much Trauma u think false imprisonment is worth. And then the delay of medical care. Did the delay of medical care reduce the effectiveness of treatment.
Trauma from jail time can reduce future employment success.
Less positive brain function ditto. I'd have to see more details about the individuals case. But as I stated 390 minus lawyer fee seems inadequate.
 

GOHOX69

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Legal eagles,

False imprisonment is both a tort (civil) and crime (criminal). As far as the criminal end goes, no county attorney is going after their own cops. That's the five finger discount. You've seen this all over the US.

As far as the tort bit goes, Iowa juries aren't exactly in the habit of giving defendants large judgments especially when the po po is involved. Not to mention most police depts etc have some, if not blanket, tort immunity.

In these circumstances, settlements are not a bad thing so I am sure his attorney did some calculus and this is what our local market bears.
 

HawkMachine

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