Jury Awards Man $12.2 Million After Being Hit By Man Detained Earlier By Police
A jury awarded a West Haven man $12.2 million Wednesday after he was hit by a van driven by a man who had been detained earlier by East Haven police, his attorney said.
The New Haven Superior Court jury reached the verdict in favor of Thomas Ventura and against East Haven police, said Ventura's lawyer, Michael Stratton. He said after police responded to a call of a suspected impaired driver in 2006 they drove the driver home and did not impound his vehicle.
Police appeared to know the driver, who was convicted of evading responsibility, Stratton said.
"It's a very outrageous thing to do," Stratton said. "They're willing to risk the public safety to do this private favor."
The driver returned to his vehicle and drove away, hitting Ventura, a pedestrian, blocks away from the original scene less than an hour after he was dropped off, Stratton said. Ventura, 25, suffered a traumatic brain injury and fractures and required surgeries, his attorneys said.
Hugh Keefe, attorney for the police, said there was insufficient evidence to justify the verdict. He said that there was no evidence the driver was drunk and that he hopes a judge will grant his motion seeking to have the verdict set aside.
"It's difficult when there's an attractive and appealing plaintiff, as there was in this case, to overcome sympathy," Keefe said.
The verdict is the latest blow for East Haven police. Two East Haven police officers were found guilty in October of violating the civil rights of Hispanics and two others pleaded guilty earlier to reduced charges.
The U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights probe that found a pattern of discrimination and biased policing in East Haven.