A man who was struck by a Dunwoody Police car while running away from authorities has settled a lawsuit with the city for $400,000.
The city maintains the collision was accidental and that the officer was cleared by an internal investigation.
The settlement is the latest in a series of lawsuits and settlements involving the police department in the last three years with payouts totalling nearly $640,000. Another $2 million is demanded in pending legal complaints and actions.
In the 2017 case, police got a call about Yadata Osman doing doughnuts in a parking lot near Perimeter Mall about 1 a.m. Sept. 4, 2017.
Dunwoody Police Officer Kevin Lopez-Lincona and Sgt. T.D. Fecht responded in separate vehicles. Fecht pulled behind Osman’s car and turned his blue lights on. Osman jumped out and ran, according to his attorney, Mark Begnaud.
Fecht went after Osman on foot while Lopez-Lincona followed him in his cruiser. Lopez-Lincona bumped into Osman, who kept running.
Osman was struck a second time and was pulled under the officer’s car which crushed and shattered his leg, Begnaud said.
“The city’s insurance carrier made the determination to settle this case,” according to a statement from spokeswoman Jennifer Boettcher. “The city disputes the assertion by the plaintiff’s attorney that the officer chased down his client and struck him intentionally.”
“There was simply no justification for this officer’s reckless decision to chase down Mr. Osman with his patrol car,” he said.
It was an interesting case in that Osman was even allowed to sue in the situation, Begnaud said. In many cases, an individual isn’t allowed to sue a government body. But there are a small handful of waivers of those immunities. Under Georgia law, immunity isn’t granted when city agents are involved in automobile-related injuries, Begnaud said.
Osman, now 32, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he underwent multiple surgeries. His medical bills reached $370,000.
Osman pleaded guilty to charges he was driving under the influence that night, Begnaud said.
Osman, a Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, has recovered, but it’s taken a lot of surgeries, Begnaud said.
The same year Osman was hit, the city of Dunwoody settled a federal lawsuit against Police Officer Dale Laskowski for $52,000.
The settlement marked the fourth lawsuit the city had settled against Laskowski by men who alleged he conducted traffic stops and then searched and detained them illegally.
The city’s insurance paid to settle the three prior lawsuits for a total of $187,000. As part of the settlement, Laskowski denied any wrongdoing and the agreement was not an admission of liability. He later left the force.
The city currently faces at least three complaints involving former Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza and other police department officials. The lawsuit, filed July 7 by former officer Roger Halstead, claims that Espinoza sexually harassed him and demanded sexual materials in exchange for work benefits, then arranged for a retaliatory firing and blackballing by other departments.
At least three other complainants have filed notices of intent to sue. Civilian transport officer Brian Bolden claims Espinoza bullied and sexually harassed him and falsely accused him of theft; and former officer Austin Handle claims racial discrimination and fears of impending sexual harassment.
Officer Bryan Castellanos alleges in a July 13 complaint letter that Espinoza sexually harassed him by sending and demanding sexual photos and videos, engaging in sexual chats with Castellano’s wife, and taking a photo of the officer while he was using a urinal.
The notice says Castellanos is seeking compensation likely to exceed $500,000. Along with the other complaint filings, including one already filed lawsuit, the city is facing at least $2 million in compensation requests or demands.