Police Collision Suit To Go Forward

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A woman who claims a Jackson, Miss., police car injured her when it collided with the vehicle she was in won a critical victory in her lawsuit, as a Hinds County judge has agreed to give permission for the lawsuit.

26-year-old Joi Fitzgerald’s complaint against the city of Jackson alleges that Officer Fredrick Suttles ran a red light at the intersection of Country Club and Northside drives on May 19, 2007. Suttles’ car crashed into Cedric Matlock’s car, in which Fitzgerald was a passenger.

Fitzgerald said the accident caused her long-term injuries in her neck, right leg, foot, hand and knee. The procedures to treat these injuries have left her with more than $16,000 in medical bills. In recompense, she is seeking $166,000 in damages as well as an unspecified amount in lost wages.

Jackson city attorneys attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed on several grounds. The first was that Fitzgerald did not completely pursue other avenues to receive damages before resorting to a lawsuit, while the second argument was that Suttles’ actions did not meet the standard for reckless disregard on which the suit is founded. The suit must prove Suttles acted without regard to the safety of someone not engaged in criminal activity according to Mississippi state law.

In ignoring the claims for dismissal, Judge Harrison commented that while Fitzgerald and Suttles had given conflicting reports as to whom had the right of way, both had indicated that Suttles was traveling without his lights on despite responding to a robbery call at the time of the accident.

There is a certain amount of precedent for this sort of case in Jackson. In 2005, a Jackson officer was found to have recklessly disregarded the safety of nonoffenders when he struck and killed Desmonde Harris.

No date has been set in the trial at this time.


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