Our client Linda was a 44-year-old lady who suffered from mental illness and also had been diagnosed as mentally retarded. She lived by herself in a rooming house in Middletown, CT. When she would become lonely or nervous, she would call 911 and tell the operator she was having a seizure. Following her call, emergency personnel would arrive at her home and then take her to the hospital. There was rarely anything actually wrong with Linda when she got to the hospital. She was just scared and lonely and saw this as a way of getting attention. The problem was that Linda called 911 so often that she became an annoyance to the police department in Middletown.
One evening, Linda looked out of her window and saw two Middletown police cars parked on Route 9. Route 9 is a busy, multiple-lane highway. The officers were parked there as construction was being done on the Portland Bridge which spanned across the highway. Linda decided to go visit the officers. She somehow managed to cross the southbound lanes of the highway. When she got to the median, the officers saw her and told her to freeze - which she did. They confronted her and asked her why she was in the middle of a busy highway. She told them she was having a seizure and wanted to go to the hospital. The officers told Linda there was nothing wrong with her and that she should immediately return home or face arrest.
Linda complied with the officer's instructions and turned to go back across the southbound lanes of the highway. She took one step off the curb when she was struck by a passing van. Linda suffered horrible injuries including a closed head injury with brain damage. Other injuries included rib fractures, a fractured clavicle, a fractured tibia and fibula, and a fractured arm.
All that Linda's family was told about the accident was that Linda had been hit by a car and that the police suspected she may have tried to commit suicide. That did not make sense to Linda's family. Shortly after the accident they asked Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney to investigate the circumstances of her case. They wanted to know why she had been hit by a car. They had no suspicion of any negligence by the police.
One of our attorneys drove up to the Middletown Police Department to ask what had happened in the accident. The secretary who spoke with our attorney was very helpful and indicated that "Crazy Linda" had just walked in front of a car. She gave our attorney a rough draft of the police investigation.
That rough draft of the police investigation became a critical piece of evidence to the case. The rough draft of the report showed that the officers had been in the middle of the highway with Linda and could have just walked her across the street to safety.
During the trial, however, the officers produced a report that completely exonerated them of any negligence. Further, the officers denied that there was ever a rough draft of the report. Their version of the evening was far different than the original report.
The case went to trial and Linda was represented by Bob Sheldon and Doug Mahoney of our office. Our attorneys were able to show that the officers had covered up the facts of the accident. Our attorneys hired an expert from Florida to testify as to the correct protocols officers are to follow when confronted with a mentally ill woman in the middle of a busy highway. Our expert testified that when a person like Linda is in the middle of a highway, at a minimum, the officer has to help her out of harm's way.
Our team of experts testifying at trial also included an economist, a vocational rehabilitation specialist, an orthopedic surgeon, and a psychologist.
The City of Middletown adamantly denied any responsibility for this accident. They said that Linda was at fault for her injuries for walking in front of the car.
The last offer made by Middletown to resolve the case was $250,000. After five hours of deliberations, a Bridgeport jury reached its conclusion. The jury determined that the officers and Linda were both responsible for the accident. The total verdict was in the amount of $2,395,844. The jury then reduced the verdict by the 40% that it found Linda to be at fault for the accident and ordered the City to pay Linda $1,437,506.
"I think they just ignored her," Bob Sheldon said. "The sense I got of it was 'Oh, it's her again.' Obviously she's a nuisance, and they just couldn't be bothered."