CYCLIST BRINGS $20 MILLION CLAIM AGAINST COUNTY
PHOENIX, ARIZONA. Motorcyclist William Lee has brought a $20 million claim against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office stemming from catastrophic injuries he sustained after Deputy Terry R. Wade, Jr. ran him over last April. Wade, who was driving a 5000-pound Ford Expedition, decided to engage Lee in a high-speed police chase in a residential neighborhood after Lee failed to stop for a routine traffic violation. The chase ended when Wade failed to stop at the end of a dead-end street. Wade ran over Lee and his motorcycle and dragged them over 80 feet through a dead-end street barricade until Wade’s Expedition got stuck in a ditch.
“The officer’s decision to turn a routine traffic violation into a high-risk, high-speed police chase was grossly reckless,” said Adam A. Studnicki, a prominent Phoenix, Arizona trial attorney representing Lee. “In a high-speed police chase, especially one involving a motorcycle, the police vehicle becomes a deadly weapon. That is why a number of cities have limited police pursuits to situations where the police may use deadly force.”
Wade had two women in his vehicle on a ride along who were not police officers. “The officer’s decision to play cowboy and impress the two women in his truck impaired his judgment,” said Studnicki. “The officer put the lives of Lee, the two women passengers and the general public at risk. You just don’t do that for a routine traffic stop. In fact, our sources have told us that the deputy violated the Sheriff’s Office’s policies and procedures, which prohibit officers from engaging in pursuits when they have civilians on a ride along in their vehicles.”
Lee was critically injured in the accident. He was in a coma for over three weeks and had 10 serious surgeries in a one-month period. Lee suffered serious injuries to his brain, liver, spleen and kidney, as well as multiple broken bones.
Lee, who is only 26 years old, is dependent on a wheelchair. His injuries are permanent. Studnicki said, “You don’t put someone in a wheelchair for failing to stop for a routine traffic violation. We have reviewed statistics showing as many as 44% of police chases cause accidents and 25% result in injuries or deaths. Exposing the public to this level of risk for routine traffic violations does not make sense.”
Adam Studnicki, a graduate of Harvard Law School with honors, is a shareholder at the law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy. He represents the victims of serious personal injuries and their families. He has obtained a $17 million jury verdict against General Motors and is representing 36 people in tread separation/rollover cases against Ford and Firestone.