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City of Santa Maria to pay $400K for crash involving police officer

Posted at 5:52 PM, Dec 17, 2018

The City of Santa Maria is paying out more than $400,000 after a jury recently found a Santa Maria police officer responsible for causing a crash that injured two people.

The attorney for the plaintiffs involved says this could’ve happened to anyone.

Dash camera video shows the 2016 crash happens in less than 10 seconds.

“The passenger was bending over to pick up his sunglasses, he looks to the side and he looks out the side mirror and he said, ‘Here it comes.’ The officer was just distracted. I believe he was on the telephone, distracted, and he came up and crashed into the back of our client,” said attorney Michael Clayton.

A city spokesperson contends that’s not true, saying in a statement, “The officer heard a call on his police radio regarding multiple suspects fleeing the scene of an attempted robbery. While responding to the call, the officer looked at suspect information displayed in his in-dash computer, and traffic ahead of him came to an unexpected stop.”

After the accident, the two people inside needed medical help and wanted the city to pay for the growing cost of medical bills.

“It’s a little more heightened when you’re talking about the city or a government agency because there’s more steps that you have to do in order to get into the courtroom. You just can’t sue the government, you have to file claim forms and go through the process before you get into the courtroom and try to litigate,” Clayton explained.

Two years later, a jury has ruled in favor of the driver and passenger, giving them a settlement of over $400,000.

“Each of them has to get a right shoulder surgery, which is to the tune of $20-25,000 each. When you add up their past economic losses that both of them sustained and the future economic losses that they’re going to sustain as a result of one more operation, it comes to over $400,000,” Clayton said.

A city spokesperson says this ruling is disappointing, “The City of Santa Maria admitted fault in the accident, promptly paying the full value of the vehicle. However, the City contested the extent of the Plaintiffs’ personal injuries and was unable to reach a reasonable settlement with the Plaintiffs. At trial, a divided jury returned a verdict for approximately $420,000. The City is disappointed with the verdict and is weighing its options, including seeking a new trial or appealing the judgment.”