Osborn Machler Announces Settlement in Chris Harris Police Misconduct Case
Attorneys representing the family of Christopher Harris today announced they have reached a $1.478 million settlement regarding allegations that the King County Sheriff's Department intentionally withheld highly damaging documents showing that Deputy Matthew Paul exhibited a pattern of behavioral issues before and after he shoved Harris into a wall in a tragic case of mistaken identity.
When the documents were uncovered following a $10 million settlement in a civil trial against King County, Sim Osborn, the Harris family's attorney, filed additional claims. The documents allegedly included at least four complaints that the deputy who attacked Harris had previously used unnecessary or excessive force.
Osborn contended in court that the county intentionally withheld damning documents that it was required by law to give to the plaintiffs in an attempt to hamper the case. According to Osborn, had the county lived up to its duty, he would have taken the case through trial, and would have filed a federal civil-rights cause of action as well.
On Sept. 14, 2012, Judge Stephanie Arend of Pierce County Superior Court admonished King County, ruling that the sheriff's department withheld key evidence in the case.
From the bench, Judge Arend noted, “Defendant King County's lack of effort and pattern of deliberate indifference with respect to producing responsive information to Plaintiff Harris is reprehensible. This reckless indifference in its failure to produce these three documents – documents that were indisputably relevant – is the functional equivalent of intentional misconduct. Through its callous indifference to the court rules and their discovery burden, Defendant King County deceived the plaintiff and it deceived the Court.”
Under the settlement, King County must pay an additional $1.478 million, including $300,000 in sanctions levied by Judge Arend on Sept. 14, 2012.
“We are pleased that King County heeded Judge Arend's ruling and have taken steps to settle these claims,” said Osborn. “This case has fundamentally changed for the better the way King County and the Sheriff's Department do business.”
Osborn also praised Harris' wife Sarah. “It took an unbelievable amount of courage for Sarah to go through everything she has, quitting her job to care for her husband and standing up to the county in court for its actions,” he continued. “It is my hope that this settlement will finally allow her and the rest of the Harris family to finally feel a sense of closure.”
According to court documents, Christopher Harris was walking in Seattle when two deputies gave chase, mistaking him for a suspect. According to witnesses, Harris ran two-and-a-half blocks before slowing down, raising his hands and attempting to surrender. Despite this, surveillance video showed King County Deputy Matthew Paul running into Harris, smashing him into a concrete wall.
Harris suffered irreparable brain damage, and likely will remain bedridden and unable to talk for the rest of his life. Sarah Harris and Christopher Harris' guardian ad litem, Franklin L. Smith, filed suit against King County and agreed to a $10 million settlement during a civil trial.
About Osborn Machler
The attorneys at Osborn Machler represent plaintiffs in personal injury, products liability, and professional malpractice cases. Osborn Machler is noted for taking difficult cases and successfully taking them to settlement or trial. The firm has extensive experience representing injured persons against federal, state, and local governments. You can learn more about the firm, its cases and expertise at www.osbornmachler.com.