City settles claim alleging officers’ reckless speeding caused fatal collision

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Case in Point

May 22, 2012

City settles claim alleging officers’ reckless speeding caused fatal collision 

The plaintiffs alleged the officers violated the decedent’s constitutional rights. Suit against the city alleged that it had a policy or practice of improperly training and supervising officers in the proper operation of their cruisers. The parties settled for $2.5 million, paid by the city. Servin v. Anderson.

During the early-morning hours, Milford, Conn., police officers Jason Anderson and Richard Pisani were driving separate cruisers through a commercial area with a speed limit of 40 mph. Although the officers were not responding to an emergency, Pisani was allegedly driving between 50 mph and 70 mph, and Anderson was allegedly driving at 95 mph as he passed Pisani. Neither officer activated his cruiser’s lights or siren. As Anderson entered an intersection controlled by a blinking yellow light, he struck the passenger side of a car driven by David Servin, who was turning left onto the highway.

Servin, 19, suffered fatal blunt-trauma injuries. He is survived by his parents and two siblings. Ashlie Krakowski, a 19-year-old passenger in the car, also suffered fatal injuries.

The crash was captured on the dashboard video camera of Pisani’s cruiser.

Servin’s parents sued Anderson and Pisani under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that by operating the cruisers recklessly and in violation of numerous motor vehicle laws, the officers violated Servin’s constitutional rights, including freedom from unreasonable seizure of his person and freedom from the use of excessive force. The plaintiffs alleged that the two officers were racing at the time.

The plaintiffs also sued the Milford chief of police under §1983, alleging that he violated Servin’s civil rights by failing to properly train, supervise, and discipline officers who operated their cruisers in a reckless manner.

The plaintiffs contended that the Milford police had a history of driving their cruisers recklessly, and that the police department was aware of it because many cruisers were equipped with in-car cameras that recorded all incidents in which a cruiser was traveling at more than 70 mph. The plaintiffs contended that the police chief had opportunities before the incident to review the tapes and intervene to stop the reckless practice but failed to do so.

The Servins also sued the city, alleging that it had a policy or practice of improperly training and supervising officers in the proper operation of their cruisers.

During discovery, the plaintiffs filed a freedom of information request seeking copies of all video recordings of Milford police vehicles during the two years leading up to the incident. The defendants provided a few recordings, which showed incidents in which cruisers were operated recklessly and at high speeds, even in nonemergency situations.

Three months after plaintiffs’ discovery request, the defendants notified them that the Milford Police Department had accidentally destroyed the remaining 2,463 records. The plaintiffs then added a claim for spoliation of evidence.

The parties settled for $2.5 million, paid by the city.

Citation: Servin v. Anderson, No. 3:11-cv-00539 (D. Conn. Feb. 15, 2012).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members R. Bartley Halloran and Kaitlin Ann Halloran, both of Hartford, Conn.; and Joseph A. O’Brien, West Hartford, Conn.

Plaintiff experts: Michael Cei, accident reconstruction, Wallingford, Conn.; and Reginald F. Allard, police procedure, practice, and training, Southington, Conn.

Comment: Claims are pending against the same defendants by Ashlie Krakowski’s estate, which is represented by separate counsel.


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