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Footchase at Parents Home


Gerry Spark was a thirty year old living at home with his parents.  He had mental health problems, as well as a problem with drinking.  On the date in question, Gerry consumed a great deal of alcohol and decided to drive his car.  When Gerry learned his parents disabled his car to prevent him from driving drunk, Gerry became very angry.  He became verbally abusive, and then physically abusive, to his parents.  He also grabbed a knife and then threatened them.  The parents dialed 911 for help.  Gerry realized the police were on the way and ran from the house.  The first responding officer,  Bob Brown, was told by the parents that the son had run into some nearby woods, and he was carrying a knife.  The backup officer arrived and then both officers entered the woods looking for Gerry.  After some time, Gerry was located and stopped running, but refused to drop the knife.  The officers engaged in prolonged attempts to get Gerry to comply with orders to come along peacefully and give up the knife.  Gerry then suddenly ran off, still armed with the knife, and with the officers in close pursuit.   (In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer, defendant and witnesses, all names and dates have been changed.  Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended.)

It was now early evening, near dusk, and the officers gave chase through the wooded area in an attempt to stop Gerry.  He did not obey their commands to stop, and led the officers in a chase.  When Gerry reached the immediate backyard of his home, he climbed over the split rail fence at the rear of the yard and continued running.  The officers ran around the split rail fence, one going to the left and one going to the right, to try to head off Gerry.  As Officer Brown was running through the high grass at the rear of the property, he stepped on a pile of debris that was hidden in the high grass.  Upon stepping on the debris, Officer Brown suffered a near complete rupture of the Achilles' tendon as he planted his right leg in full stride and fell to the ground in pain.  His backup officer came to his aid.  Officer Brown ordered the backup officer to continue chasing Gerry.  Eventually, Gerry was tackled on the lawn of a neighbor's house by the backup officer.  Officer Brown eventually hobbled down to the area and assisted with handcuffing Gerry.  Gerry was placed on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to the nearby hospital for treatment and observation. 

It has long been our position that any person who refuses to submit to a police officer exercising his lawful authority to detain, arrest or place in protective custody and then causes a foot chase, should be held liable for any and all injuries suffered by the police officer during the foot chase.  As any injured officer can attest, the amount of statutory benefits available to an injured officer, do not fairly compensate the officer for all of the damages which they suffer which include pain and suffering, disability and lost overtime and detail wages.  Officer Brown willingly agreed to have his case discussed as an example to other officers who are injured during foot chases, but may hesitate for one reason or another to contact us to discuss their cases.

Officer Brown was placed on Injured-On-Duty status, and sought treatment with an orthopedic surgeon.  His injury was initially treated in a conservative manner allowing the tendon to heal. When this proved unsuccessful, he went through intensive physical therapy and a work hardening program.  Finally, after one-and-a-half years of treatment and disability from work, Officer Brown's ruptured Achilles tendon had healed sufficiently in order to clear his return to active duty.  Officer Brown's medical bills exceeded $15,000.00, which were paid by the Town.  His Town also paid his injury on duty wages pursuant to G.L. Chapter 41, Section 111F while he was out injured on duty. 

Initially, Gerry Spark's insurance company refused our claim, choosing to focus only on the conduct of Officer Brown.  The insurance company disregarded the urgent situation, and the negligent and reckless acts of Gerry Sparks, who refused to submit peacefully to the police and then fled while armed with a knife back towards his parents home, resulting in the ensuing foot chase through the woods and high grass during dusk.  According to the insurance company, Officer Brown's injury was his own fault due to him being out of shape.  Further, the insurance company contended Officer Brown had poor vision and should have seen the debris hidden beneath the tall grass in the dusk during the foot chase.  We argued that Gerry Spark's negligent failure to peacefully submit to the police officers was the legal cause of the chase through the woods and high grass during dusk which resulted in the injury, not Officer Brown's conduct.   Gerry Spark had a lawful duty to obey the officers' commands to drop the knife and come along peacefully and hence he was responsible for the resulting injuries. Not only did Officer Brown give chase in order to protect Gerry's elderly parents from their son, he was also trying to help Gerry who was clearly suffering from  problems including alcohol intoxication.  As such, we also argued Officer Brown's conduct was irrelevant as he was in the status of a rescuer under the "rescue doctrine". Unable to resolve the case, we filed a lawsuit against Gerry Sparks.  We also eventually filed a lawsuit against the insurance company for its unfair insurance claims settlement practice under Massachusetts law, given its unreasonable position in denying the claim by only focusing on Officer Brown's conduct.

After multiple depositions and conferencing the case with the Judge who would hear the case, the parties agreed to go to privatemediation.  After prolonged negotiations, the matter was finally settled for $200,000.00, resulting in a substantial monetary recovery to Officer Brown, over and above the injury on duty benefits he received during the year and a half he was out on IOD status. 

Injured officers throughout Massachusetts should always consider seeking a free consultation with us to determine his or her rights, benefits, and the probability of making a successful claim.  I am always available by telephone, email or a personal meeting.  Once I evaluate the case and the officer's chances of success, the decision whether to go forward rests with the officer.  If the injured officer is out of work, the decision when to return to work rests, as it should, with the officer and his or her doctor.  Unlike other attorneys, we do not believe in, nor do we have any interest in, keeping officers out injured any longer than necessary to heal from their injuries.  As it is, many of our injured officers never miss a day of work and are still able to receive substantial compensation for their injuries which continue to nag at them during long hours spent behind the wheel of a cruiser and/or standing on a road job.

As with all claims involving an officer's injury on duty, there are no guarantees.  Many police injury cases involve sophisticated legal issues, problems of proof, technical insurance policy coverage disputes, and issues that arise under Massachusetts General Laws c. 41, §100 and §111F, Chapter 152, State Police Article 8 and/or other related laws.

When we work on these cases, we work on a contingent fee basis. That means the injured officer pays nothing up front and while the case is pending.  He or she only need pay for legal services and expenses at the end of the case, if we successfully collect money on the claim.   We typically will receive one-third of the money collected.   In the off-chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our legal services. 


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