Horrific injuries following police chase detailed in $13M la

Lawsuits against police and police-related pertinent court decisions.

Horrific injuries following police chase detailed in $13M la

Postby Thomas » Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:45 pm

Horrific injuries following police chase detailed in $13M lawsuit

A bank heist and a getaway. A police pursuit that started in Sarnia and ended in London. A mother and daughter hurt in a collision with a police cruiser. An officer charged and a lawsuit filed. Randy Richmond reports on the fallout, only now coming to light, of a gripping summer day nearly two years ago.

Even in medical terms, and certainly in plain language, the injuries sound horrendous: atlanto-occipital dissociation (internal decapitation); subarachnoid hemorrhage (traumatic brain injury); splenic and renal laceration (damage to spleen and kidney).

Even with the legalese involving a “suspect apprehension pursuit,” the Ontario law is clear: Before chasing a suspect, a police officer shall determine whether public safety is better served by chasing, or not.

During a pursuit, an officer shall “continually reassess” that decision and stop the pursuit if the risk is greater than letting someone get away. Supervisors shall order a pursuit stopped if they believe it’s a greater risk to public safety than letting a suspect go.

That law, and the injuries to a London mother and daughter during a police pursuit in 2019, form the basis of a lawsuit seeking $13 million in damages filed against the province, London police, an OPP officer, a cab driver and a cab company.

So, too, does the guilty plea of an OPP officer, undisclosed to the public until now.

Porsche Clark, 29, and her daughter, Skyla Clark, 10, are suing the OPP officer, Timothy Groves, the province (liable for the OPP), London police, U-Need-A-Cab in London, cab driver Adil El Niwairi Ahmed and unnamed ”dispatchers, supervisors, communications supervisors, road supervisors, members, employees or agents of the OPP or the London Police Service who had powers and duties” to order a stop to the pursuit.

The basic facts of the pursuit and collision on July 28, 2019, played out in news reports and in the trial of one man who pleaded guilty to the gunpoint robbery that sparked the chase. The Clarks were in the back seat of a taxi driving through an intersection on a green light. A vehicle occupied by the suspected bank robbers went through the intersection, followed by Groves in an OPP cruiser, on a red light. Groves’ cruiser struck he taxi, injuring the Clarks.

But Groves’ trial provides more details about the chase of two suspects, and the statement of claim in the lawsuit provides more details about the alleged impact of the chase on mother and daughter.

The statement of claim and the trial differ about some key parts of the pursuit. An agreed statement of facts at Groves’ trial says he slowed as he approached the intersection. The statement of claim alleges he went through “at high speed.”

The statement of claim contains allegations not yet dealt with in court. The extent of the injuries to Porsche and Skyla Clark outlined in the statement of claim has yet to be confirmed or contested.

“The one thing that strikes me is that either one of them could have been killed,” says London lawyer Kevin Egan, who, with McKenzie Lake colleague Louis DelSignore, is representing the Clarks.

“And the odds of Skyla surviving the severity of her injuries were very, very slight. The odds are minimal of anyone surviving an internal decapitation, and the fact that she survived has to be, obviously, due to her own spirit, and the people who treated her. I think it’s a testament to the first responders, to their skill and dedication, that they were able to save her life. The same goes to the medical people that treated her at the hospital.”

The crash sent the cab spinning to a corner of the intersection, where it struck a telephone pole, the statement of claim alleges. The Clarks were treated there and taken to London Health Sciences Centre.

Porsche suffered a broken neck, collapsed lung, lacerated spleen and kidney, a fractured rib, spinal fracture and brain injury, the statement of claim alleges. She spent two months in hospital, requiring intubation and a tracheotomy to breathe and a feeding tube to eat.

Skyla suffered an internal decapitation, a ligamental separation of her spinal column from the base of her skull, the lawsuit claims. Medical journals say there’s a small chance of surviving such an injury.

Skyla also suffered traumatic brain injuries, a sinus fracture, brain and neck-area bleeding, swelling and ligament damage, the lawsuit claims. She had several surgeries and procedures, including fusion of her spinal bones and drainage of her cervical spine, according to the lawsuit.

The mother and daughter spent months in rehabilitation, Porsche at Parkwood Institute for two months and Skyla at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto for four months, the statement of claim alleges.

Both are home and together, Egan says.

The statement of claim lays out potential challenges and losses ahead for mother and daughter:

“Skyla will have ongoing difficulties with infections, trunk control, mobility, standing on her own, upper extremity strength and fine motor control . . . She has no or severely reduced mobility in her neck,” it alleges. She will require transportation help, medical devices to help with all activities of daily living, special training and education, the lawsuit contends.

“She will continue to suffer the effects of her injuries and will continue to lose enjoyment of life for the balance of her nature. To date, the full extent of her injuries, disabilities and future treatment have not been fully determined.”

Porsche Clark, the lawsuit claims, will continue to suffer from her injuries, affecting her chances of employment, enjoyment of life and ability to care for her home.

The mother and daughter’s injuries and drastically changed lives are a result of negligence by police and the cab driver, the statement of claim alleges.

Among other mistakes, Groves continued a high-speed pursuit without properly assessing the risk and danger to the public, failed to avoid a collision when he had a chance to and drove carelessly, the statement of claim contends.

Among other mistakes, the OPP and London police officers, supervisors, dispatchers, road supervisors, or communications supervisors involved in the pursuit failed to continually assess the risk to the public in continuing the pursuit and order officers of their own or of any other police force to discontinue the pursuit, the lawsuit claims.

Sarnia police terminated their pursuit out of concern for public safety, the statement of claim alleges.

Cab driver Adil El Niwairi Ahmed began to drive into the intersection without checking that it was safe to do so, and continued after the vehicle being chased sped by in front of him without checking to see if anyone else was coming, the claim alleges. Ahmed didn’t respond to the sirens and lights of emergency vehicles and drove in front of them, the statement of claim alleges.

London’s police services board has filed a notice of intent to defend the action. There are no other notices, or statements of defence, filed yet at the London courthouse in this lawsuit.

U-Need-A-Cab manager Ismail Omen said the company’s lawyer was preparing a response to the statement of claim. “The taxi company and the driver were also victims,” he said.

The cab driver, Adil Ahmed, could not be reached for comment. He is not back at work, Omen said.

Groves could not be reached for comment. The OPP was not able to reply to a request for comment by press time.

Porsche and Skyla Clark declined to be interviewed for this story, Egan said.

“They’re OK, considering,” he said.

Skyla has returned to the classroom for a couple of days a week. Egan said he witnessed the girl slowly recover, first moving her fingers and toes, then awakening.

“This bright, funny little girl emerged out of basically a comatose child. It really has been amazing that she has done as well as she has,” he said. “But she still has very significant difficulties.”

Besides compensating the mother and child, the legal action could make a difference for others, Egan says

“You wouldn’t expect police to open fire on someone in a shopping mall,” he says. “Why should they be driving these two-ton vehicles down the city streets at high speeds and going through red lights? Hopefully, there’s a signal to the police they can’t do that.”

THE TRIAL: Officer ‘acted honestly’ but ‘made a judgment error’

The OPP officer charged after driving through a red light and injuring a mother and daughter during a police pursuit paid a $2,000 fine and will keep a clean driving record.

Middlesex OPP Const. Timothy Groves was charged in April 2020 under the Criminal Code with two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, but pleaded guilty in December to a lesser offence under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act.

The criminal charges were withdrawn.

The five-year veteran had been pursuing two suspected bank robbers on July 28, 2019, when he crashed into a cab and injured Porsche Clark and her daughter, Skyla, at Southdale Road and Verulam Street in London.

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which probes police actions involving serious injury or death, laid the charge. Groves was on a paid leave, the OPP said at the time of the charge.

The pursuit, collision and aftermath drew widespread media attention, but Groves’ appearance in the Ontario Court of Justice by online video Dec. 22 passed without notice.

He pleaded guilty then to one Highway Traffic Act count: operating a motor vehicle without due care or attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the street, and causing bodily harm.

The fine was the minimum allowed, with the maximum $50,000. Punishment also can include as long as two years in jail, licence suspension and demerit points on a driving record. The financial punishment faced by a first-time offender convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm under the Criminal Code is similar, though the jail or prison sentence can range from two to 14 years.

Justice John Skowronski accepted a joint sentencing submission and agreed statement of fact from the Crown and Groves’ lawyer.

“It is admitted that, in proceeding through the intersection, while the light . . . was red, and colliding with the taxicab that was proceeding on a green, Const. Groves drove without due care and attention,” provincial Crown Peter Scrutton said, reading from the agreed statement of fact.

“Constable Groves slowed as he approached the intersection,” the statement says. “He observed motor vehicles stopped in all directions. Const. Groves honestly believed it was safe to proceed through the intersection. Const. Groves drove with his lights and sirens activated through the intersection against the red traffic signal and collided with the side of the taxicab. He applied brakes prior to the impact but was unable to avoid the collision.”

Two factors were considered in accepting the plea to the Highway Traffic Act charge, rather than going ahead with a criminal prosecution, Scrutton said.

The legal test for dangerous driving causing bodily harm includes whether an officer’s driving was a “marked departure” from that of a reasonable police officer in these circumstances, Scrutton said.

“Const. Groves was acting in the good faith performance of his duties, attempting to apprehend suspects where he believed there was a danger to the public,” Scrutton told the court.

Groves has a clean driving record and an excellent record of community service, his lawyer, Joanne Mulcahy, told the court.

“Armed bank robbers were acting in a dangerous manner and he (Groves) believed it was in the public interest to stop them,” she said. “He acted honestly here. He made a judgment error.”

It was also in the public interest to send the matter from criminal court to provincial offences court so it could be dealt with more quickly and allow the civil case to proceed, Scrutton said.

“In my determination and having consulted with counsel for the two complainants in this matter, the provincial offences resolution rather than a criminal prosecution is in the public interest,” he said. “It would likely take years for the criminal process to play out and it is also likely that civil process would wait until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.”

London lawyer Kevin Egan, representing the Clarks, confirmed the Crown had approached him about the criminal case, and agreed a guilty plea and shortened legal proceedings would aid his clients.

Besides pleading guilty, Groves said little at the hearing.

Asked if he had anything he’d like to say at the trial, Groves replied: “Not at this point, your honour, thank you.”

CHRONOLOGY OF THE PURSUIT

- About 3:50 p.m., July 28, 2019: TD Canada Trust branch on London Road in Sarnia robbed. Suspect vehicle, Nissan Altima, was driven to a park, where the licence plate was changed.
- Nissan takes Modeland Road toward Highway 402. Drives around police car blocking on-ramp. Nissan travels at speeds of 180 to 190 km/h and weaves in and out of traffic.
- Lambton OPP take up pursuit on 402.
- During pursuit, driver turns and travels in opposite direction and deliberately tries to hit OPP vehicle. OPP vehicle veers onto shoulder to avoid collision. Nissan driver also tries to run another officer off road.
- Spike belts deployed on 402, but Nissan goes around them. OPP officer points gun at driver, but driver ignores commands and continues.
- Nissan travels at 178 km/h on way to London, swerving around traffic.
- Nissan reaches end of 402 and takes ramp to Highway 401 East. Middlesex OPP, including Const. Timothy Groves, join pursuit. Groves tries to use a spike belt, but it fails. Groves has emergency lights and sirens activated during pursuit.
- Nissan reaches London city limits about 4:30 p.m. London police join pursuit. Nissan drives through a grassy ditch and heads north on Wellington Road, almost immediately purposely ramming a civilian vehicle.
- Nissan, still heading north, moves into southbound lanes of Wellington. An OPP cruiser (not Groves’) collides with northbound civilian vehicle turning left across southbound lanes into Archie’s Restaurant about 4:45 p.m.
- Nissan turns west onto Southdale Road, followed by police. Taxi carrying Porsche and Skyla Clark is leaving No Frills parking lot at Verulam Street and Southdale and stops at red signal. Moves through intersection on green, narrowly missed by Nissan speeding by.
- Groves’ vehicle collides with side of cab about 5 p.m. Cab comes to rest on northwest corner of intersection.
- Groves stops nearby, walks back to scene to help and calls for ambulance.
- Other police cruisers follow Nissan into a residential neighbourhood, where suspects abandon vehicle and call a ride-share company. Ride-share driver alerts police and suspects are arrested.

https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/aft ... 3m-lawsuit
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