Man struck by police cruiser gets day in court

City attorney accused of "frivolous defense"

A July 2014 auto collision involving an on-duty police officer who rear-ended a car on Friars Road will go to trial on Friday, August 26.

Attorneys for the plaintiff, William Raines, however, say the city is gambling with taxpayer money in an open-and-shut case that could have been settled long ago.

Raines, a San Diego EMT, was driving on the just west of Fashion Valley Mall at the 6900 block of Friars Road when his car was struck from behind after passing through a stoplight by San Diego police sergeant Nick Nguyen's cruiser. The collision propelled Raines's car into the vehicle ahead of him.

Police officers at the scene filed a report. In their report, officers confirmed that Raines had been wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident. They also noted that Raines had complained that his glasses had broke and he had a stiff neck. No other injuries were reported.

Days later, Raines went to see a doctor about the pain he was experiencing in his neck and lower back. The doctor found that Raines, in fact, tore the labrum inside his left hip. The tear eventually required surgery. In all, Raines accrued over $200,000 in medical bills. In January 2015 he filed a lawsuit against the city to recover his costs.

Since, says Raines's attorney Daniel Gilleon, the city has refused to consider the full-scope of damages and instead offered to settle the case for $50,000. Gilleon says now that the case is heading to trial the city has challenged the police report that stated that Raines was wearing his seat belt.

"This is what we [attorneys] call a 'frivolous defense,'" writes Gilleon. "City attorneys are essentially taking a flyer on the taxpayer's dime with the frivolous allegation [Raines] wasn't wearing his seat belt...even though their own employees [the police officers] documented in the police report that our client was wearing his seat belt."

Gilleon, a longtime critic of city attorney Jan Goldsmith, blames the city attorney for pursuing cases such as these.

"When will this nonsense end? I suppose when the new city attorney gets sworn in, assuming it's a real attorney, not a politician who makes day-to-day decisions on the basis of whether they will make him look like a real attorney."

Trial in the case will start at 9 a.m. before Superior Court judge Judith Hayes.

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Comments

Sigh. Looks like the Dim Reaper is going to swing and miss again.

The usual reaction when the city or county or school district or state is sued is to settle. We are told that, after all, it is covered by insurance. Assuming that the city has vehicle liability insurance (should we assume that?), why is the city attorney contesting this? It makes little sense, except when you remember who the city attorney is, Goldilocks of the courtroom. Sheesh, I'm glad I don't live in the slobberin' city of SD!

The city is self insured for incidents like this one. The city's public liability fund, is budgeted from your tax dollars and pays settlements and/or jury awards from cases brought by injured parties.

Cases are first reviewed by the city's risk management department then, if a claim is denied, litigation is the next step. While city liability is pretty clear in the information provided, we don't have the whole story, i.e. Percentage of potential contributory negligence, if any.

What we don't know from this story what steps have been taken since litigation commensed, i.e. deposition of the parties involved, expert opinions on injuries, collision dynamics and their results.

Insurers, (the city in this case) have a duty to be honest, forthright and act in good faith. At the same time they should not squander our tax dollars. But willful misconduct has consequences.

The story and plaintiff's attorney implies the City Attorney is acting frivolously and this case should be settled. Until all the facts are public knowledge I'll wait to form an opinion myself. Cases should not be tried in the media as this potentially tampers with a juror pool.

Well it turns out the City ultimately offered to settle the case for $50K but the greedy plaintiff and his lawyer declined. The case was tried and the jury awarded $30K. So the City Attorney's office evaluation of the case was correct.

Goldsmith has been a disaster as City Attorney. From his failed attempt to keep his email out of the public record (costing the city the expense of hiring lawyers to defend the City Attorney which sounds like a joke but isn't) to trying to jail a man for felonious sidewalk chalking he has been laughable if not for the cost to the city.

But the idiot voters kept returning him to office.

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