Death From Dangerous Chase Will Cost Police

     (CN) – Baton Rouge police owe more than $500,000 to the family of an 83-year-old man who was paralyzed in an accident with a squad car, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.
     While chasing a car that matched the description of a stolen vehicle, Officer Stephen Tibbets was driving 92 mph but did not turn on his lights or sirens.
     Nelson Dakmak Sr. was making a left-hand turn when Tibbets crashed into him at a speed of 59 mph. Dakmak was paralyzed from the waist down.
     In the hospital, Dakmak was diagnosed with liver cancer. He died almost three months after the accident.
     The man’s three sons took over for Dakmak as plaintiffs in his negligence complaint against the Baton Rouge City Police Department, and they added individual claims for wrongful death.
     Finding the police liable, a trial court awarded the Dakmak family $1 million, plus an extra $10,000 to each son for wrongful death. Both sides appealed, with the sons arguing that their awards should have been greater.
     A three-judge panel with the First Circuit Louisiana Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that Nelson Dakmak Sr. was not partially at fault for the accident.
     “A motorist making a left-hand turn at an intersection will be held free of negligence when the collision results because of the oncoming vehicle’s excessive speed, which he could not reasonably anticipate,” Judge Mitchell Theriot wrote for the court.
     Despite Dakmak’s history of prostate and liver cancer, diabetes and hypertension, it is correct to blame the accident for his death, the court found.
     “Paraplegic patients typically develop processes that ultimately kill them, most frequently decubitus ulcers which become infected and lead to their death,” Theriot wrote. “This was the case with Mr. Dakmak; he developed a grapefruit-sized stage 3 decubitus ulcer on his sacrum (lower back), meaning that the ulcer had eaten through the skin, through the muscle and down to the bone.” (Parentheses in original.)
     Instead of granting the sons more money, however, Theriot reduced their $1 million award to the statutory maximum of $500,000.
     He kept the sons’ awards at $10,000, noting testimony from Dakmak’s friend that his relationship with his sons was “distant.”
     Francis Fair testified that Dakmak was “frequently upset because he didn’t have the closeness he wanted to have with them. Like they didn’t have time for him.”

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