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Officer received a two-day suspension for his negligent driving
JONESBORO, Ark. – A lawsuit was filed this month over a Jonesboro officer who ran a stop sign and caused a devastating 2017 wreck that left a woman in a paraplegic state.
The officer was suspended for two days over the crash he caused, NEA Report just learned through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The lawsuit was just filed on May 2, 2019, which was the deadline for filing in this case. The defendants are the City of Jonesboro, the Jonesboro Police Department, and Patrolman Michael Talley, who caused the wreck.
The accident itself happened close to 2:50 PM on a rainy Wednesday, May 2, 2017 at the intersection of Flint Street and West Huntington Avenue in Jonesboro. Patrolman Talley, 28 at the time, was driving his 2009 Ford Crown Victoria south on Flint Street. The lawsuit alleges he was speeding. Police confirmed he was not wearing his seat-belt and was driving negligently.
According to the disciplinary report we obtained on the officer, Talley approach the intersection but didn’t stop. He ran the stop sign and entered the intersection as a 1998 Toyota RAV4 was coming down West Huntington. The RAV4 slammed into the front-side of the patrol car, totaling the SUV and bending the SUV’s front in sideways. The two vehicles collided a second time as both spun in opposite directions from the impact, with the rear of the vehicles making contact. The patrol car then struck a fire hydrant so hard, it sent the steel projectile flying through a business’s front door. The SUV slammed into a utility pole.
His injuries were nothing compared to the others’.
Attorney Doug Brimhall is representing the family who was riding in the RAV4. In an exclusive interview he granted to NEA Report, Brimhall described the gruesome injuries: Carolyn Johnson, 66, suffered a broken wrist and three cracked or fractured ribs. Michael Johnson, who was a juvenile at the time, suffered a fractured ankle. The third occupant, Haley Johnson (now Boyd), 21, had her spine fractured by the wreck.
Two years later, she has lost all use of her legs. Muscle atrophy has set in. She can barely use her arms. She can barely even stay seated in a wheel chair.
“Haley is mostly bedridden,” Brimhall said. “She can use her arms some. She needs assistance to get up and get on the potty or wheel chair. She can’t be in the wheel chair very long due to poor circulation. Her feet have lost all muscle tone and point downwards.”
Haley’s medical bills have totaled, to date, $193,471. Bills for the others were several thousand dollars, putting the total close to $200,000.
“Haley suffered the critical portion of this,” Brimhall said. “It’s just a sad circumstance. And I don’t think Haley will ever be the same. Ever.”
The family was referred to Brimhall by another of his clients. When h reviewed the case, he said it made an emotional impact.
“They’ve been through a whole lot and to have clients come in. Sometimes, you can tell when they’re acting and putting on a show,” Brimhall said. “These people were truly, truly harmed and it’s affected them. Just with the emotions, it kind of tugged on my heart strings and I took the case.”
The lawsuit alleges Talley was negligent in the following respects:
- Defendant failed to keep a proper lookout on the roadway
- Defendant failed to keep his vehicle under reasonable control
- Defendant failed to make proper use of the instrumentalities in his control so as to avoid a collision when he saw or in the exercise of ordinary care, should have seen Plaintiff’s vehicle
- Defendant failed to bring his vehicle under control or to change or divert its course when he saw, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have seen, that a wreck was about to occur
- Defendant failed to drive at a speed that was reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, having due regard for any actual or potential hazards
- Defendant failed to stop at the stop sign
- Otherwise failing to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances.
Although the lawsuit alleges Talley’s negligent acts caused the wreck, most of these claims are backed up by the disciplinary report we obtained Tuesday, May 21, 2019.
“You failed to stop your vehicle and entered the intersection and were struck by another vehicle which had the right of way, causing extensive damage to both vehicles and other property,” said the report approved by Capt. Kelly Baggett.
The report goes on to say the wreck was due to Talley’s “negligent driving and disregard for conditions.” For this, and not wearing his seat-belt, Talley was reprimanded.
He received a two day suspension. Talley is presently employed by JPD.
Who Will Pay
There was some concern within the City of Jonesboro this month that the accident had fallen outside of the city’s liability insurance coverage.
On May 3, a representative from Gallagher Insurance replied to the city’s purchasing agent, saying it appeared this suit “would fall outside our coverage period.”
An email then forwarded to City Attorney Carol Duncan and Police Chief Rick Elliott described the situation as a “pickle.”
However, City Spokesman Bill Campbell was quick to respond to our inquiry on Monday.
“It is covered by our insurance through the Arkansas Municipal League,” Campbell wrote. “We changed over to them last year.”
Although the accident happened in 2017, the city said the municipal league insurance would still cover the accident.
The lawsuit is seeking damages for the physical injuries, property damage, steep medical bills, and mental anguish for the family. Carolyn, the grandmother of the two, has grieved deeply since the accident.
The family has been left broken by the entire experience, said Brimhall.
“I can’t tell you how many time Carolyn has cried my office over this incident,” Brimhall said. “It’s really…it’s really sad.”
For Haley, she has suffered depression from being stuck in the house for so long. She hasn’t walked in over two years. Pain keeps her awake at night. She’s pushing forward, though. She has faith that God will heal her but she’s fearful of the possibility that she may never be able to walk again.
Seeing her granddaughter this way has left Carolyn grieving ever since.
“She’s taken care of these kids for the longest time,” Brimhall said. “While she’s back to being as normal as she can be, her emotions stem from Haley. She gets really emotional talking about Haley and what she’s still going to go through. Just the condition she’s in. This event has scarred [Haley]. She’s terrified of riding in cars now.”