City and police officials have agreed to pay a man $75,000 to settle a lawsuit filed after his fiancee was killed and he was seriously injured when a driver fleeing police crashed into his car.
Richard Garman’s settlement, allows the city of Indianapolis to avoid a costly trial without admitting liability in the fatal 1999 crash.
Garman’s case stemmed from a 50-second chase that reached 80 mph on city streets and ended when a fleeing driver struck the then 21-year-old Garman’s car, injuring him and killing his fiancee, J. Elizabeth Foster, 19.
Garman, now 30, sued based on his own injuries, which included broken ribs and collapsed lungs, as well as emotional distress and clinical depression spurred by Foster’s death. Garman’s injuries left him with more than $280,000 in medical bills.
The fatal police chase began after a police computer check incorrectly showed that a car an officer had spotted had a stolen license plate. Police caught the fleeing driver, Jessie L. Smith, 19, shortly after the crash, which also killed a passenger in Smith’s car.
Smith was convicted of resisting arrest and sentenced to three years in prison.
Indianapolis allows officers and supervisors wide latitude to initiate a pursuit and call it off, rules that have come under fire after several resulted in death or injury to bystanders.
Garman’s lawsuit first had to navigate legal obstacles against those seeking to hold police responsible for chases gone wrong. A Marion County judge eventually ruled law-enforcement immunity did not protect police from a negligence claim arising from the chase.
In 2006, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the ruling unanimously, leading to settlement negotiations.
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