Published On: Mon, Sep 21st, 2015
METRO | By OLS

Jury awards $254K to Ports employee for injuries suffered in 2012 Tybee arrest

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tybeeATLANTA – A jury in Savannah has awarded a $254,000 verdict for a man who claimed he was injured by a Tybee Island police officer.

A lawyer for the city of Tybee Island said it would appeal the verdict, which included $210,000 in damages and $44,000 in attorney’s fees.

The verdict came Aug. 26 after a trial before Chatham County State Court Judge H. Gregory Fowler. Plaintiffs attorney Ashleigh Madison of Southeast Law Firm said her client, Michael Harrod, suffered four broken ribs, a punctured lung and abrasions and bruising on his face after he was roughed up by a policeman while walking home from the beach fireworks show on Labor Day weekend in 2012.

Harrod, then 42, was walking with his adult daughter and his girlfriend, who was renting a beach house, after having drinks at two Tybee Island bars, Madison said. Still carrying a cup in his hand, he tossed some ice into the air and told the women to watch it fall.

Although he and the women testified they didn’t see anyone nearby, a man approached and said, “You threw ice on my child.” Harrod apologized, but the man threatened a fight.

The stranger was five inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Harrod, who was 5 feet 5 inches tall and 125 pounds, Madison said. Frightened, Harrod ran. A police officer saw Harrod running and came after him.

The officer was bigger still—about 300 pounds, the lawyer said. She added that the officer tackled her client and cuffed him, then put his foot on Harrod’s head and pressed. When Harrod asked the officer to remove his foot, the officer instead put his knee down on Harrod’s side and dropped his weight.

That’s when “Mr. Harrod heard the snap” of his ribs cracking, Madison said. The police arrested Harrod for disorderly conduct but did not detain the stranger who had threatened him, Madison said.

Later, Harrod was transported by ambulance to an emergency room. He spent five days hospitalized, including several days in intensive care because of his punctured lung, Madison said. His medical bills totaled $50,000. He also claimed $12,000 in lost wages for his job with the Georgia Ports Authority.

Madison said she asked the jury during her closing argument to award $250,000.

“So they gave a little bit more,” she said.

Madison tried the case with Bart Turner and Billy Otto of Savage, Turner and Pinckney, where she worked before starting her own firm last year. Tybee Island was defended by Paul Threlkeld of Oliver Maner, who has filed a notice of appeal. “We respect the jury’s verdict, but we disagree with it and intend to pursue the appeal to the very end,” Threlkeld said.

A defense summary written for the court said the Tybee Island police officers “acted appropriately at all times” and that Harrod’s injuries “were the result of his own actions.”

The defense noted repeatedly that Harrod was intoxicated when the officers observed the argument and saw him run away. The first officer to chase Harrod, “in an attempt to subdue him and prevent him from fleeing further, wrapped his arms around” Harrod in a “bear hug” and “fell with him to the ground.”

Madison said she noted for the jury that it was not a crime for her client to be intoxicated at the beach. “Certainly,” she added, “he didn’t deserve to be battered after being handcuffed. That type of conduct is not acceptable.”

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