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The case of Erika Raposh v. Connecticut was all about the high cost of underestimated risk. Fittingly, it ended not with trial, but through mediated settlement. Raposh was one of three young women driving to Foxwoods Casino in the early evening of Aug. 23, 1995. An intoxicated motorist, fleeing state troopers, slammed the women’s car from behind at over 100 mph, ejecting them from their vehicle. The plaintiffs’ mediation summary for the complex litigation docket in Waterbury, Conn., outlines how a state trooper’s aggressive attitude helped a minor incident of unruly patrons at a bar escalate into a disastrous interstate chase. Much of the key evidence comes from statements made on radio dispatch tapes. A call came in to state police troop F, in Westbrook, from the bartender at the Ocean Spray Caf� in Old Lyme, Conn., reporting two men harassing other customers and creating a disturbance. Two local constables talked to the two outside the bar and calmed them down. The bartender said he did not wish to press charges. State trooper Karen Nixon arrived and took over, as ranking officer. According to Constable Eric Sweden, Nixon said she responded to the call in hopes of “some action.” In her questioning of the two suspects, Harry LeBlanc and Ronald Gantner, it turned out that LeBlanc’s license was suspended. In an exchange of words, Nixon referred to the men as drunks, and later testified that LeBlanc had “invaded her space” and had a condescending attitude toward her as a female officer. The constables warned the suspects and left, but Nixon stayed and watched. When LeBlanc got behind the wheel, she did not try to stop him. Instead, she followed and radioed ahead that she “might need some muscle for an attitude adjustment.” Nixon hit the flashing lights and LeBlanc pulled over, only to peel off when she approached on foot. A chase was on. Speeds hit 85 mph on Route 156, a two-lane local road, as LeBlanc passed cars in no-passing stretches and zipped through an intersection without stopping, almost striking another car. Up ahead, backup trooper Kevin Slonski tried to block LeBlanc with his car, but the fugitive driver swerved off the road near I-95 to continue his flight. Slonski became the lead pursuit vehicle, entering I-95 and hitting speeds of 100 mph. Half a mile before exit 71, Slonski’s car hit the Raposh vehicle at a speed that experts set at between 102 and 122 mph. The written policy for troopers requires that they “constantly evaluate whether to discontinue a pursuit.” The plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Leonard Territo, an ex-police officer and criminology professor at the University of South Florida, concluded that once LeBlanc showed his proclivity to flee, he “was likely to continue this mission until he felt safe,” and that the troopers’ pursuit pressure is “the fuel behind the rocket.” In particular, because Nixon and Slonski had all the information necessary to get a warrant and make a later arrest, the risk of accident outweighed the need to pursue the suspected misdemeanor offender, Territo reasoned. Erika Raposh Davidson sustained most of the injuries, including cranial nerve damage, internal injuries and burns, and is now unable to work. Her medical costs were approximately $150,000. Economic expert Dr. Gary Crakes, of Cheshire, estimated her earning capacity loss at between $1 and $1.7 million. Her award under the settlement was $960,000. Plaintiffs’ lawyers Patrick J. Fitzgerald and S. David Vatti, of Bridgeport’s Zeldes, Needle & Cooper, chose a mediated settlement over trial. While their experts felt it was clear that the police should have abandoned the chase, Fitzgerald said there was no way to know whether a jury would agree.

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