Officer ran stop sign, crashing into and crippling woman: lawsuit

Haley Boyd is a fighter. She's not stopped trying to walk for the past two years. Photo provided by family.

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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.

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What Happened

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.

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The crash was devastating. It caused extensive damage to both vehicles and to other property, as described in the officer’s performance notice. Not only that, but because of no seat-belt, he suffered a head injury that caused him to miss work.

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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
A brave young woman who only dreams of being able to walk.

“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.


Broken.

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.”

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Haley’s Facebook profile shows her biggest dream in life: to walk again. 

 

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9 Comments

  1. He will be until we put pressure one the city to do whats right.I think in situations like this the person who caused the accident should be held liable and have to pay not us “the taxpayer”. He doesn’t care he got two days off and knows he doesn’t have to pay for anything.
    So the city was trying to hide this too huh, most of them should be fired or forced to quit with NO severance pay or anything else. The few that have been forced to quit in the past were given a choice to either resign/quit and still get severance pay or get fired and get nothing. Yes we’re still paying people who resigned/quit and are no longer work for the city.

  2. Accidents like this happen every day. Its unfortunate that this lady was paralyzed, but as long as there are vehicles, there will be vehicle accidents. The only reason this is being made into a big deal is because he is a police officer. Had this been one of you, no one would have come after you for your job or said the nasty things you are saying. If you are against police then apparently you are guilty of something.

  3. I would think that he is still in his job because he is a devoted person who loves his job and just because he was involved in an accident doesnt make him a bad person. They are called accidents for a reason, because something happens out of the ordinary. It happens every day and everywhere there are people. I know that Officer Talley did not have the thought run through his mind..hey, lets have an accident…no one is prepared for an accident, they just happen. There were a lot of factors that cause accidents, they are not choices, again, why they are called accidents. The next time you have an accident, do you want everyone to call for you to be fired from your job…im pretty sure you dont but whats fair for one is fair for another.

  4. I think everyone is doing this because he is a city official and no one told us ‘the public’ about this its like they were trying to hide it. I wonder how much stuff they aren’t telling us as for Chief Rick Elliott he should quit so he can keep his pension, all this lying and other b/s all starts at the top and yes Harold should have to go too.

  5. You are in error on that sir. The incident was in the paper and on the news when it occurred. This happened two years ago, the people suing waited until the last day they could file a lawsuit to file it, thats why it is in the news again. In actuality, the expenses for healthcare can be settled without lawsuits if the injured party turns in everything they incur. There are very few cases that people need to file a lawsuit to get health care reimbursement, most people sue for what they want to claim for pain and suffering…assuming they want to put a value on that.

  6. Ever heard of lead by example as a trained policeman he should have been paying more attention to his surroundings. I’m just wondering if he got a traffic citation like anyone else would have been given or does that also not include people like you? What value do you put on life pain & suffering what do you think a life is worth?

  7. I do not claim to be the all knowing – i have no way of knowing if he was paying attention to his surroundings or not. I am just making comments on how i view this case, just like you and your friends are making comments on how you view it. There are two people that know what was in Mr. Talleys mind that day…Mr. Talley and God. How does anyone know if he was paying attention to his surroundings or not? It was raining that day…just like any car, police cars can hydroplane. Have you ever hydroplaned? You do not have to be going fast to hydroplane and once your vehicle is in hydroplane mode, you do not have control of the vehicle and the vehicle will gain momentum and spin out of control. I can say from true experience that i know what happens when you hydroplane and that there does not have to be much preciptation for it to happen and that no matter how much driving experience you have…you do not have control of the vehicle. And I am not claiming that is what happened in this case, i am only saying that it is as much possible that is what happened as what you might think happened. So, let’s say that he was paying attention to his surroundings, he hydroplaned and with no control of his vehicle at that point, this incident happened…unfortunately, the outcome is still the same.
    And last, you ask me what do i think life is worth….well sir or maam…i would say from our conception to our last breathe…life is worth the same every second of our life in that timeframe and i cannot put a price to life. i paid nothing for my life and i expect no payment. I believe that everything happens for a reason and for everything that happens, a lesson is learned but you have to be willing to accept all things as just that…a lesson of life. There will be lessons of pain and sorrow and there will be lessons of joy and excitement. Money will not buy me any of those things.

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