INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Gypsy the border collie died more than a decade ago when a car hit the dog.
That led to years of litigation.
The Indiana Supreme Court recently ruled in a case involving the dog’s tale.
A conservation officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Scott Johnson, owned the family pet.
A woman driving by the officer’s house, Kailee Leonard, hit the dog in December 2012 in Hancock County, located off the eastern border of Indianapolis. Leonard left the scene of the crash, deciding to go to her nearby boyfriend’s house so he could return with her to the crash scene. Her boyfriend drove them in his vehicle to the conservation officer’s home, where she apologized for hitting the dog and picked some parts of her car from the road.
Skip ahead a few months.
Johnson spoke with a Hancock County deputy prosecutor and questioned whether Leonard “leaving the scene of an accident involving a pet and returning ‘over an hour later’ in a different vehicle ‘would meet the elements of leaving the scene of an accident,’” the ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court said.
The deputy prosecutor connected Johnson to an investigator, who found probable cause, the ruling says.
Next, it’s June 2013. Leonard gets the mail and finds a summons for a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop for an accident. She hired an attorney.
She was never arrested. About a year later, the state dismissed the case at Johnson’s request.
Leonard sued in federal court for being falsely charged.
“The jury found Leonard ‘was falsely arrested by’ Officer Johnson and awarded her $10,000 in damages,” the ruling said. “The federal court then approved Leonard’s request for $52,462 in attorney’s fees and costs, resulting in a $62,462 judgment.”
Johnson invoked what are called indemnification rights, meaning the state government by its own law would pay the bill. Leonard and her attorney, Jeffrey S. McQuary, then sued the state government to get the payment.
A trial court eventually agreed that the state should pay, but noted that “Johnson falsely maintained that Leonard had left the scene and returned the next day — not shortly after the accident, as actually happened.”
The state used that note to appeal the case, challenging whether Johnson’s actions were “noncriminal.”
However, Leonard during the trial court proceeding “stated that she ‘didn’t know’ whether it was Officer Johnson’s or someone else’s actions that led to her being charged.”
Also during the trial court proceedings, Johnson’s supervisor with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said no information had been received that the officer “was untruthful regarding the incident.”
The Indiana Supreme Court ruling also noted, “Finally, an investigator with the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office testified that no records reflected the office ever ‘considered filing charges’ against Officer Johnson.”
On Feb. 5, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled. The state must pay.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote, “Leonard showed that Officer Johnson’s conduct was noncriminal, but the State did not rebut that showing.”
Rush also wrote in the ruling, “As captured in Lord Byron’s ‘Epitaph to a Dog,’ the death of man’s best friend often prompts a visceral response — perhaps none more so than the one here, where a dog’s death triggered over a decade of litigation in both state and federal courts.”
The post Indiana Supreme Court Rules State Must Pay in Decade Old Case appeared first on WIBC 93.1 FM.
Indiana Supreme Court Rules State Must Pay in Decade Old Case was originally published on wibc.com
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